Following an agreement of collaboration reached between English Referees’ General Manager Mike Riley and MFA Director of Refereeing Adrian Casha, two young Maltese referees are currently officiating matches in England.
Young talents Ishmael Barbara (aged 20) and Alex Johnson (aged 22) are this week officiating at the NIKE Youth Tournament for Premier League clubs being played this week at St George’s Park, the English Football Association’s National Football Centre at Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire.
Ishmael Barbara’s first matches were West Brom vs Arsenal and Stoke City vs Fulham, while Alex Johnson was in charge of the Everton vs Newcastle United match. Other referees in the tournament are all from the English Premier League, including the well-known Howard Webb, Marc Clattenburg, Martin Atkinson, Mike Dean, Michael Oliver and Kevin Friend amongst others.
Ishmael Barbara and Alex Johnson are being assisted by assistant referees and 4th Officials provided by the Cornwall Referees’ Academy, while their performances are being assessed by referee observers from the English FA.
Both Ishmael Barbara and Alex Johnson are currently following a two year Referees’ Talent and Mentor Programme under the mentorship of former referee Alexander Spiteri.
Contacted in UK, Ishmael Barbara stated that he was “thrilled to be part of such a professionally run tournament” and he hopes that his performances “will pave the way for my colleagues to benefit from such an opportunity in the future.” Alex Johnson added that “this was an excellent learning experience – I am so excited and grateful to the Malta FA for the opportunity that I have been given.”
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