A REFEREE is to jet off to China to take charge in this summer’s Great Wall Cup football tournament.
Luke Ryan, of Newton Hall, Durham, says the opportunity to officiate in Beijing was too good to turn down.
“This is my first tournament abroad and I am very excited,” said 23-year-old Luke. “I heard about it by word of mouth and thought I would give it a try.”
Although Luke is not getting paid for the tournament, he believes there is still plenty for him to cheer about.
“You have to pay for your flights but they put you up in a four-star hotel and they set up free trips, such as The Great Wall of China, so it’s pretty good,” he said.
Aside from the luxury hotels and the sightseeing trips, Luke hopes the event will open doors to a career as a referee.
“Hopefully, it’s a first step to becoming professional.
“This opportunity will be a great experience,” he said. Refereeing runs in the family, as his dad, David, is also a part-time referee.
“My dad is a prison officer but he is a referee as well,” he said. “He used to referee Sunderland reserve matches but he doesn’t do it that often now.”
Luke, who has refereed in the Russell Foster Youth League since the age of 16, is one of the region’s youngest officials and hopes to inspire more youngsters to take up the role.
“I started refereeing seven years ago because I wanted to encourage kids to get into football and refereeing as well,” he said. Luke will travel to the Chinese capital for the tournament, which includes teams from around the world, before it starts on Sunday, July 14.
The Great Wall Cup tournament, part of the Premier International Tours, will be held at the soccer park at the Beijing Olympic Sports Centre.
It is an international youth football tournament run by the Beijing Football Association and China Sports Tour.
Last year, 30 teams competed, including sides from Brazil, the Philippines and Russia.
Teams can also attend cultural events, learn basic Chinese and kung fu and visit sites including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.