JOHANNESBURG - The referees and linesmen to officiate at the upcoming World Cup will be chosen by FIFA on Friday at the end of a selection process lasting more than two years.
A total of 37 referees and 74 linesmen are left on a shortlist that has been whittled down from 54 refereeing teams originally chosen in 2007.
FIFA had not decided on an exact number of referees for the tournament in South Africa, an official told Reuters, but the figure would be around 30.
The final selection will be done by the refereeing committee in Zurich on Friday but a FIFA spokesman said they were not sure whether the list would be announced the same day, over the weekend or on Monday.
A raft of controversial decisions at the last World Cup finals in Germany has led to FIFA drawing up an elaborate programme to prepare prospective officials for the June-July finals in South Africa.
The shortlist nevertheless includes several referees at the centre of contentious incidents in recent years, including Swedish firefighter Martin Hansson, who missed the handball that allowed France to qualify for the World Cup, and Norwegian Tom Ovrebo, who received death threats after turning down a raft of legitimate-looking penalty appeals against Chelsea in last season's Champions League semi-final tie against Barcelona.
Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, suspended last year after giving a two-fingered salute to supporters chanting verbal abuse, is also on the shortlist as is Englishman Howard Webb, who changed his mind on a penalty decision during last year's Confederations Cup.
In 2006, referees were accused of being pernickety and ruining the tournament with several bizarre decisions, not least Englishman Graham Poll giving one player three yellow cards in a single match.
For the 2010 finals, there are 14 candidate referees from Europe, seven from South America and five each from the Asian and Concacaf confederations.
Africa had five but last weekend Benin's Bonaventure Coffi Codjia was suspended indefinitely after failing to take action against a player who headbutted him during the African Nations Cup in Angola. Two referees from New Zealand represent Oceania.
Each referee has his own team of two assistants who have worked with him consistently over the last two years. Should any of the trio fail a physical or laws test, the whole team falls out of contention.
Of the 37 candidate referees, eight officiated at the last finals in Germany, including Mexican Benito Archundia, who handled the semi-final between Germany and Italy.
The oldest on the list is Brazilian Carlos Simon, who turns 45 in September, and the youngest is 30-year-old Joel Aguilar of El Salvador.comments