In a special Harmony Week edition of Behind the Whistle, Football Queensland spoke with referee Abdullah Al-Khameesi on his journey from refereeing in Iraq to officiating in Queensland.
Al-Khameesi first started refereeing in Iraq in 2013 and eventually moved through the ranks to officiate games in the Iraq Division One League and the Iraq Premier League, the top two divisions in the country.
“I was refereeing every two weeks in the Iraq First Division League and every three to four weeks in the Premier League, as well as sometimes refereeing games in the Iraqi Cup,” he said.
At the age of 31 Al-Khameesi moved to Brisbane in September last year, acknowledging the support from the local refereeing community following his arrival in the country.
“It was really welcoming, and I did like it. I had a good opportunity to introduce myself to referees in Brisbane at QSAC.”
As he began to settle in, he noticed the significant difference in referee pathways in Australia compared to Iraq.
“Back in Iraq we started as juniors in the industry and went through three grades before going to the international FIFA phase,” he said.
“I have seen the difference here in Australia. You have to go through many different grades, and it sounds like it’s a little bit harder to reach the national stage.”
Despite the pathway being more extensive in Australia compared to in Iraq, Al-Khameesi noted how eager he is to learn from other referees around him here in Queensland while showcasing his experience from back home.
“I just would like to improve myself as someone coming from overseas and from a different culture,” Al-Khameesi said.
“Especially because I was refereeing in the First Division League, and the Iraqi Premier League, I would like to demonstrate my experience and improve upon that.
“I’ve only had two games so far so I’m waiting for more games to be assigned to me, but I’m looking forward to more opportunities.”
While he is comfortable expanding his skills within Queensland’s football leagues for now, Al-Khameesi’s ultimate goal is to reach the highest level of refereeing in Australia.
“It’s really hard to be a FIFA referee at the moment, so I would love to referee in the national league,” he said.
“I’m just looking forward to having more opportunities to prove myself and show my experience as someone coming from overseas to Australia.”