The UAE football team may not have been at the France '98 World Cup finals, but the country was represented in the next best possible way. While not actually being a sports player, tribute should rightfully be paid to Ali Mohammed Bujasim who was rated as one of the best referees in the month-long football festival. That was quite some recognition considering that the high standard of refereeing was one of the main talking points of France '98. Few came out of the tournament with any credit at all but the UAE star put many officials from so called 'recognised footballing nations' to shame. Bujasim, who showed that referees can still officiate with common sense rather than strictly adhere to the ridiculous guidelines laid down by FIFA, was in charge of the dramatic semi-final between Holland and Brazil which was decided by a penalty shoot-out. He appeared to be the coolest man on the pitch in a high-pressure situation that could have exploded at any moment.
Earlier in the tournament, he took charge of Scotland's crucial clash with Morocco and it was his splendid performance in that encounter that saw him rewarded with the semi-final clash. It was the second time Bujasim has officiated at the World Cup finals, following his appearance in World Cup 92 in America. Accolades have been heaped on the Dubai official since the tournament finished, but one of the strangest came from the Dubai Civil Defence who awarded Bujasim with smoke detectors and fire extinguishers! Keeping some of the world's best players in check must have been quite a task for Bujasim, but his training as a lieutenant colonel stood him in good stead. He has also been awarded with a first degree military honorary medal by Major General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, under secretary of the Interior Ministry. Bujasim took a well-needed break after the pressure of the World Cup but is currently preparing for the rapidly approaching UAE national league which gets underway in October. He is also likely to take charge of matches in the upcoming Pan Arab tournament to be hosted by Qatar, and the Gulf Cup in Bahrain.