Despite their early departure from the OFC U-17 Championship, hosts Tahiti can find some solace knowing their very own Norbert Hauata will be taking the lead in the knockout stage of the competition.
Hauata will be the referee for tonight’s second semi-final between New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, where the competition finalists, and the second Oceania representative in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, will be decided.
“I was very happy when I heard that I got the appointment for the semi-final,” he said.
“Tahiti was already out of the competition so that makes me neutral for the semi-final, so I had already prepared myself for the semi-final, and maybe for the final too.”
Hauata’s only trumping moment in his career as a referee was in 2014 when he represented both his nation and his region at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
“This was a big big experience for me. It was a big honour to represent OFC and also my federation there. This was my dream and my dream had come true,” he said.
“For every referee, this is the dream. The World Cup. We all work hard to reach the World Cup.
“Now I’ll try again to be there next year. We have a seminar in April in Italy, and we’ll find out there if I’ll be going or not.”
While refereeing in his home country for the OFC U-17 Championship, Hauata is making the most of his opportunity to pass on his experience from the World Cup to the other referees in hopes to raise the standard in the region and help them join him at the top tier.
“This is my chance to share my experience with some younger referees from each country,” he said.
“Only Matthew Conger and I have experience in FIFA competitions, that’s why this competition is good to start preparing referees for their future.”
For Ni-Vanuatu referee Arnold Tari, the time spent with Hauata and Conger has been invaluable in his first experience leading a match in an international tournament.
“I haven’t been to many tournaments so I am pleased that I have been given the chance to referee my first match here in Tahiti,” he said.
“Tournaments like this, when we are joined by the FIFA referees, we learn a lot. When we mix in with the FIFA referees we learn a lot about teamwork and the hard work it takes to reach the top.”
Hauata has inspired the young referee to keep working hard and keep aiming to reach the elite level in refereeing.
“My aim and my goal is to reach a World Cup tournament,” Tari said.
Hauata will take the field with assistance from Folio Moeaki, John Pareanga and Arnold Tari when New Zealand meet Papua New Guinea in the semi-final of the OFC U-17 Championship at Stade Mahina in Papeete, Tahiti, at 7pm (local time) on 21 February.