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Soldiers help out local referees

The story has its roots in a chance meeting between Solomon Islands FIFA referees, Jackson Namo and John Sa’ohu, and Warren Bunn, at an international women’s match between Papua New Guinea and New Zealand in March 2012. Bunn, who is a police officer by profession, is also an active referee for 23 years. He shared with Namo and Sa’ohu that he may visit Solomon Islands under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) program.
Fast forward to the end of 2012 and Bunn found himself in Honiara serving with the RAMSI participating police force contingent. It was not hard for Bunn to catch up with Namo and Sa’ohu and other referees for their weekly training sessions at Lawson Tama where the New Zealander was received warmly by the locals. This was helped by Bunn arriving with a donation of referee jerseys, whistles and other equipment which helped the referees considerably in their training.
The friendship got another boost when a contingent of soldiers serving with RAMSI decided to form a soccer team and play some of the local teams. The team was called GBR Football Club after where the RAMSI military base is located, Guadalcanal Beach Resort just east of the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
Because Bunn was already active within the local refereeing body it was not so hard to organise several of the FIFA badge holders, who badly needed training matches, to officiate in some of the friendly matches played by the GBR Football Club. This included several matches with some of the top local clubs and one with the Solomon Islands national football team, who were also in need of some test matches, in the build up to their final 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers match against New Zealand in March.
The reception and friendliness of the local referees struck a chord with some of the soldiers who thought it a highlight of their deployment in Solomon Islands to play the country’s top players and to be refereed by highly qualified referees. This cordiality resulted in members of GBR Football Club purchasing a new set of referee uniforms which was donated last week on their behalf by Bunn, who was also instrumental in ordering the uniforms.
Local referee development officer, Justin Mutukera, thanked the members of GBR Football Club for their support and also offered his appreciation Bunn.
“We are very happy to receive this new equipment from our friends. It is a very unique and kind gesture which we will remember always and talk about for years to come,” says Mutukera.
“Through football we have made some wonderful friends and we are thankful that they see it fit to help us. I am sure that these uniforms will make their contribution to local football in the coming months and years.”

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