Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Papua New Guinea referee David Yareboinen feels privileged to be appointed to referee the OFC Champions League 2023 final, but his preparation and execution won’t change.

“Every match is always a grand final,” the 32-year-old said. “The preparation will not change but we try to improve and polish up on our last outing.

“I’m honoured because every referee’s aim is to officiate the final. To achieve this goal is really something. Words can’t express how I feel.”

Yareboinen is a diminutive figure but his presence on the field belies his physical stature. He’s happy to get among the big boys as he did in a melee after the final whistle in the gripping semi-final between Suva FC and AS Pirae.

“They respect the man in the middle,” he said. “They can talk and argue amongst themselves but when I get in there they generally stop what they’re doing and it’s okay.”

His fellow officials are also helpful in ensuring a smooth-running match. 

“The team that I work with really help,” he said. “I try to be human with the players, not too strong with them, understand the situation and try to be friends on the pitch so the game goes well.

“And If I miss something, my assistants give their opinions and we try to make the best decision. I’m the person who blows the whistle but I rely on my fellow officials.”

Yareboinen’s efforts have made him a fan favourite in Vanuatu and his love for the country is mutual.

“This tournament has been excellent and the people in Vanuatu are great. I don’t know how but they notice me when I go out. They call me ‘referee’ and I just smile. It feels good to be in Vanuatu.”

Yareboinen’s ambition is to referee at the highest level.

“It’s important to referee a final in your own confederation because it adds to your profile. The goal is to go to a World Cup and this is the first step. I hope I get more appointments for future tournaments so I can make my way up to a World Cup.”

This will be Yareboinen’s second consecutive OFC Champions League final, after he controlled Auckland City FC’s 3-0 win over AS Venus in last year’s decider.