KUALA LUMPUR: Lt Col (Retired) Kamarudin Sakhari will soon have to take a break from his duties as chairman of a residents association and fly off somewhere to perform his function as a match commissioner for FIFA, the international football association.
FIFA recently asked him to get ready to pack his bags without indicating which international game he’ll be monitoring and in which part of the world.
“There’s always a game going on somewhere, and not only during the World Cup season,” he told FMT in an interview at the office of the Kampung Malaysia Tambahan Residents Association in Sungai Besi.
He is as passionate about football as he is about his community service and remains busy with both. Not bad for a man in his seventies.
Among the community efforts he is proud of are the sewing classes he decided to organise a decade ago for fellow residents of Kampung Malaysia Tambahan. Those classes are still running and participants make handbags and shopping bags from old banners and used clothes.
“I see it as something to help the locals acquire a skill to help them make a living,” he said. “Old fabric and plastic materials can be turned into something useful again with some creativity.”
But it was football that he mostly talked about in the interview. He called it his “first love” and no listener could doubt it. The excitement was obvious in his voice, his gestures and even his clothing. He was wearing an Asian Football Confederation shirt.
He started playing the game in his schooldays back in the 1950s. He was a coach for the army’s football team in the 70s and later took to refereeing for a decade.
He became a FIFA commissioner in 1998.
“It is a well paid job,” he said. “But I do not see it as a job to enrich myself but more as a duty for the game. And that keeps me going.”
He said one of his most memorable experiences in the job was having to call off a match in Jordan because the country failed to provide sufficient security measures.
“The organising country was supposed to provide 2,000 police and army men to maintain security in the stadium, but there were only about 200 on the day of the match.
“I could not let the game play on time until they could stick to the initial plan of 2,000 security officers because I did not want to take any risks in the event of a riot.”
The delay prompted Jordan’s King Abdullah II to approach Kamarudin to persuade him to allow the match to start.
“He assured me there would not be any problem, but I stood firm. I said I did not want security to be compromised.”
The Jordanian authorities eventually got the required number of security personnel and Kamarudin allowed the match to proceed. It was a few hours later than scheduled. FIFA fined Jordan for the infraction.
Asked whether he planned to slow down like most people in his age group, Kamarudin said he was too used to a busy life to think of any other way of living.
“I actually had a bypass surgery last year after I collapsed due to blocked arteries,” he said. “Thankfully I survived and was able to return to the field after six months of recovery.”