NZ referees selected for football World Cup

New Zealand referees Peter O'Leary and Mike Hester have been selected to help officiate at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Overnight FIFA named a list of 30 referee trios from 28 countries - Mexico is the only other country to have two referees named - with Auckland naval officer Hester and Hamilton school teacher O'Leary emulating the All Whites in qualifying for South Africa.

The men, both aged 37, are now vying to become the first New Zealander to referee a match at the finals of a FIFA World Cup, following in the footsteps of assistant referee Paul Smith, who ran the line for three matches at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.

O'Leary learned the news early today and the Hillcrest High School teacher was elated for both himself and his compatriot.

"It's very satisfying. Both myself and Mike have put in a lot of hard work and a lot of people including family and employers have been very understanding," O'Leary said.

Hester, who only became a FIFA referee in 2007, said the ascent of the kiwi pair could not be put down to any one factor.

"It's been one adventure after another," he said.

"It's really a combination of things; hard work, the support of family and friends, support from work and the refereeing fraternity, development programmes from New Zealand Football and OFC plus opportunity and timing. Then there are the exchange programmes that NZF has with the Dallas Cup and English Premier League which have been invaluable."

Two other New Zealanders feature in the Oceania trios as assistant referees with Jan Hintz joining Tonga's Tevita Makasini in Hester's team and Brent Best alongside Mathew Taro (Solomon Islands) in O'Leary's triplet.

"It's a fantastic result to see four New Zealand match officials among an elite list heading to South Africa," said New Zealand Football Referee Development Officer Ken Wallace.

NZPA