Alejo Perez Leguizamon is the man in charge of improving the fitness of Oceania’s match officials.

Based in New Zealand, Perez Leguizamon has joined OFC as a Fitness Consultant where his focus will be on developing training resources for officials and Referee Development Officers.

The well-travelled Argentine previously worked for OFC from 2003-2007 and brings a wealth of experience to the table.

Perez Leguizamon has worked with officials at 22 FIFA tournaments, including four men’s World Cups.

He was the lead sports scientist for the FIFA referees from 2008-2013 and is now the lead sports scientist for the referees for the Asian Football Confederation.

After spending time overseas, he returned to Auckland with his family in 2016; since then, he has worked with New Zealand Football’s referees and continues to deliver FIFA’s Member Association and Futuro III referee courses for the Asia-Pacific region.

He has connections to local club Ellerslie AFC and still plays futsal for East City in Auckland.

As Oceania’s match officials begin to emerge from their coronavirus-enforced lockdowns, they will be tested to measure their fitness levels.

Looking ahead, Perez Leguizamon said he wants to prepare fitness resources to ensure officials continue to push themselves.

Oceania provides some unique refereeing environments with soaring temperatures, particularly in the Pacific Islands.

“I’m quite passionate about working with referees. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I really enjoy the challenge,” he said.

“We want our referees to be able to keep up with the pace of the game whatever that brings, while always using an evidence-based approach to performance.”

While he notes he is not a qualified nutritionist, he said hydration and eating the right food was an important part of preparing for a tournament for match officials.

“They need to put the time into it to train well, to eat well, to rest well; so, those three pillars are still very important for them.”

Alejo Perez Leguizamon speaking at a workshop ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Photo Credit: FIFA via Getty Images

When football does return in Oceania, it goes without saying that the match officials will play an important role.

Perez Leguizamon is working on developing a coaching course for Referee Fitness Instructors and Development Officers that will be conducted post-coronavirus.

In the future, he said they would be able to develop more specific programmes that would recognise the different types of fitness required from the lead official to assistant referees.

OFC boasts 46 FIFA Officials – nine male and three female FIFA referees plus 19 male and six female assistant FIFA referees.

Perez Leguizamon acknowledged the challenges that top match officials in the region – and around the world – often face as they balance work and family commitments.

“The elite referees are keen to train regularly and they are extremely dedicated.”

OFC’s Head of Refereeing Kevin Stoltenkamp said it was great to be able to call upon someone with the experience of Perez Leguizamon.

“Alejo has worked with the world’s best match officials in a range of high-pressure environments and will be a valuable asset for Oceania’s referees,” Stoltenkamp said.

“Alejo is familiar with the Pacific region and will be able to provide great insight to help improve the fitness levels of our officials.”