How to become a World Cup referee

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(CNN) — Kenya’s national football team may not have made it to the World Cup Finals in Brazil — but one man will be there for his African nation.

Stepping into the role of representing Kenya is Aden Marwa, the country’s first linesman to officiate at the beautiful game’s biggest event.

“Football is my life, football has made my life change a big deal,” Marwa tells CNN.

Like many a young boy, Marwa became obsessed with football, often walking vast distances so he could get to a TV to watch a match. Yet despite his passion for the game, he wanted nothing to do with refereeing and for good reason.

“Those times it was hard because a match would hardly finish without a referee being beaten,” he explains. “The fans were rowdy and you know, the facilities were not very good.”

“You were playing in open fields so the referee could be attacked anytime so when I could see that as a young boy, I didn’t love it. So I was scared.”

However, by the time Marwa became a linesman in 1998 at the age of 21, the game had changed dramatically as more resources and education had been funneled into the sport.

“Once you decide you want to become a football referee there are three pillars. One is your medical fitness, two is your physical fitness and then three, the technical fitness, so these can not be compromised.”

By 2006, the ambitious referee got his big break refereeing a game in the Kenyan Premier League before making his international debut as an assistant referee for FIFA just two years later.

Today he holds the accolade of “best assistant referee” in the Kenyan Premier League and his talent has taken him to sun-kissed shores of South America for the 2014 World Cup, where he has been performing as a reserve assistant referee.

The 37-year-old knows this will be the biggest test of his career so far and is prepared to have the eyes of millions of football fans scrutinizing his every decision.

“Referees have to make decisions in the shortest time possible. I see it once but you, on TV, will see it and see a replay and you can even pause with technology and even review,” he says.

“As a referee I only have one angle to look at that … so the challenge that we have as referees, the biggest one, is how to place yourself at the right position and the right moment to make that very important, crucial decision.”


By Florence Obondo, CNN and Lauren Said-Moorhouse

for CNN



Editor’s note: African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africa’s most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.

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