Assistant referee Mark Ssonko is among the 12 African assistant referees shortlisted to officiate at the 2018 FIFA World Cup to take place in Russia.
According to FIFA, all match officials (referees and assistant referees) selected from different continents will attend preparatory seminars in different countries, after which the number will be reduced. FIFA has shortlisted six centre referees and 12 assistant referees
Ssonko says making it to this list is a big achievement.
” I got this good news on Monday and we have been invited for a seminar in Qatar in March,” said Ssonko on phone.
The World Cup to attract 32 nations will take place in Russia between June 14th to July 15th. Africa will be represented by Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia.
Besides Ssonko, Senegal has two assistant referees shortlisted, while Algeria, Tunisia, Burundi, Kenya, Morocco, Sudan, Angola, South Africa and Olivier Safari from DR Congo. The top six centre referees shortlisted include; Gassama Bakary Papa (Gambia), Abid Charef Mehdi (Algeria), Diedhiou Malang (Senegal), Grisha Ghead (Egypt), Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) and Ethiopia’s Tessema Weyesa Bamlak.
Ssonko who also doubles as businessman, has officiated at high profile competitions before like the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup (India), 2016 Africa Nations Championship in Rwanda, 2014 Africa Nations Championship in South Africa, 2017 CAF U-17 Championship in Zambia and 2013 CAF U-17 Championship in Morocco among others.
In 2014, Ssonko became the first Ugandan to officiate at the African Nations Championships (CHAN) in South Africa.
Should he be passed fit to officiate, Ssonko will become the second Ugandan officiating at the World cup after Ali Tomusange who officiated at the Japan- South Korea World Cup in 2002.
In the World Cup, Tomusange was involved in four games. However, at the event, Tomusange controversially disallowed a goal by the Spanish team against South Korea. At the end of the game, he had to be escorted off the pitch by the security.
Before Tomusange, another Ugandan (Keith Bukenya) had been appointed to officiate at the world cup in 1982, but his dream was cut short after he passed on days to the opening ceremony.