Northern Mariana Islands Football Association executive director Ruselle Zapanta has been named one of Asian Football Confederation’s match commissioners after completing and passing tests at the AFC Match Commissioner Seminar.
Zapanta was one of the nearly 100 individuals from 47-member countries of the AFC who attended the seminar held in Cambodia from July 30 to Aug. 1. Participants were divided into two regions—east and west—and went through AFC Administration System proficiency and English (written and oral) communication evaluations and regulation tests. Zapanta and company also visited a soccer stadium to conduct their practical exercise and discuss case studies.
“This was the first time I’ve attended the seminar. It was nice that this did not involve intense physical activity or demand top fitness levels, such as in referee and coaching courses I’ve done in the past; but we did have to work late nights,” Zapanta said.
The seminar, according to the NMIFA official, had both newcomers and experienced match commissioners, who needed to undergo reevaluation. Zapanta is the first official from the CNMI to be named AFC match commissioner and has been included in the AFC Match Commissioners 2020/2021 panel.
“Being appointed by AFC to be an AFC match commissioner is an honor. I will have the opportunity to work with other professionals to oversee the operation of soccer matches around Asia. It may open the doors for other opportunities and experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have. And I get to do it through soccer,” he said.
With his recent appointment, Zapanta may be tapped for international games sanctioned by AFC and he is looking forward to the experience, which he believes will also benefit local competitions.
“I likely will have to wait until next year for my first appointment but when that time comes, and I complete that duty, surely I would come back with lessons and practices NMIFA can implement locally for our events. As an organization, this shows our growth and commitment to developing soccer in the NMI. We can be proud of this achievement knowing that there are other member associations who have yet to have appointed AFC match commissioners,” the former CNMI Men’s National Team member said.
Zapanta said being an AFC match commissioner would require a continued learning process so he hopes to join more seminars, and have another one or more from the Commonwealth attending them, too.
“At the moment, I’m just waiting for my next steps with AFC and being appointed for my first assignment. Soon I’ll be getting my feet wet and hope to see more of the world and experience big competitions like the Olympic Games, the AFC Asian Cup or even FIFA World Cup. I hope to have a successful stint and possibly, next year the NMIFA can add another match commissioner and I’ll be around to support,” he said.
Zapanta’s appointment was announced through a letter AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John sent to NMIFA.
“We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate those in the new panel of the AFC Match Commissioners and look forward to working with them very closely towards the successful organization of AFC competitions,” John said.
NMIFA president Jerry Tan thanked AFC for providing opportunities not only to players, but also to officials.
“We are pleased and honored to have our first AFC match commissioner and we are confident that Ruselle Zapanta will be able to fulfill his duties when he gets the call to work in an AFC competition,” Tan said.