The confederation also has a presence within the match official ranks at London 2012 and this was felt in just the fourth game of the men’s football tournament when an all-OFC trio controlled Uruguay’s win over United Arab Emirates in Group A.
New Zealand’s Peter O’Leary was the man in the middle as Uruguay posted a 2-1 triumph last Thursday and was joined by assistant referees Ravinesh Kumar (Fiji) and Jan Hendrik-Hintz (New Zealand).
The trio had a relatively straightforward afternoon at Old Trafford in Manchester, O’Leary dishing out cautions to Uruguay’s German Rolin and United Arab Emirates’ Mohamed Ahmad as the match passed without major incident in front of over 51,000 fans.
O’Leary was in action again just days later when he acted as a fourth official as captain Luis Suarez and his Uruguay charges suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat to Senegal at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium.
The Oceania officials are among 16 referees and 32 assistant referees for the 16-team men’s tournament while 12 referees and 24 assistant referees are responsible for the 12-team women’s event.
The Olympics sojourn follows on from the trio’s successful performances at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan last December while O’Leary and Kumar also represented OFC at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011.
Their involvement in London 2012 marks another major milestone for OFC’s Refereeing Assistance Programme (RAP), led by development officer Massimo Raveino.
“With the support of FIFA, we have developed a strong programme where match officials are provided a pathway to reach pinnacle events like the Olympic Games,” Raveino says.
“It is important to acknowledge the hard work of this elite trio but also the referees officiating at all levels across Oceania, who are helping to lift standards within our confederation.”
O’Leary is now one of the most experienced referees in the region following the retirement of fellow New Zealander Michael Hester, who led an OFC trio to the previous Olympic Games in 2008.
The Whangarei-based school teacher made the cut for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, during which he was called into action as a fourth official.
He is delighted to be involved in the Olympics and sees the tournament as a stepping stone to further developments in his career.
“It’s another step on the journey to the World Cup and another chance for us to show what we’ve got at a global event,” O’Leary says.