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Retiring Referee Set to Call Final World Championship

Posted October. 29, 2010 10:22,   


"Time has flown. I’ll do my best for fair and accurate refereeing until the end just as I did when I started his job.”

Volleyball referee Kim Geon-tae will soon call the last international tournament of his career at the FIVB World Championship in Japan that opens Friday. In December, he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 55 set by FIVB, the sport’s world governing body.

Kim is Korea’s lone FIVB-certified referee. Among more than 900 international volleyball referees in the world, only 11 are FIVB referees. They are referees for referees in that they train and educate other referees while calling major world championships.

Taking up volleyball as a high school junior, Kim was a latecomer to the sport but later played center for the national team. Surgery for a rare disease clogged the main artery in his right arm in the mid-1970s, forcing him to retire in 1978.

Kim returned to the court in 1985 after working for a company. He earned an international referee’s license in 1990 and became a FIVB referee in 1998.

This year’s world championship will be the eighth global tournament he will call. He has also worked in three Summer Olympics.

“My determination to become the world’s top referee made me what I am today,” he said. “Personally, I feel no remorse but regret the inferior treatment shown to domestic referees in Korea.”

He said he always studies volleyball to keep abreast of the latest trends in the sport. It is difficult to find a Korean man in his mid-50s in blue jeans off the court and standing 190 centimeters (6-feet-3) tall. Due to his belief that a referee should never grow a potbelly, he always exercised.

Kim also says he flatly rejected personal gatherings with team officials to prevent misunderstanding.

“There are many good referees among the younger ones,” he said. “I’d like them to do their best and display their abilities in the international arena. If the maximum potential of Korean volleyball is 100, it stands at around 50 now mostly because Korea’s volleyball diplomacy and influence are weaker than those of Japan.”

The veteran referee said he is more worried about Korean volleyball than himself ahead of the Guangzhou Asian Games next month, but added the Korean men could win the gold medal.

Though the world championship in Japan will be his swan song in the global arena, his fans can see still him calling games in the Korean pro league, which opens in December. The league’s retirement age is 58.