On Friday night Strebre Delovski will officiate his 100th match in the Hyundai A-League, when he takes charge of Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory.
On Friday night Strebre Delovski will officiate his 100th match in the Hyundai A-League, when he takes charge of Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory at Hunter Stadium.
Football has a strange way of coming full circle and so it has proved for Delovski.
Delovski will take officiate his 100th match on Friday night at Hunter Stadium and quaintly enough, that is where it all began for the man regarded as one of Australia's top referees.
It was Newcastle Jets v Queensland Roar back then and Delovski remembers the occasion well, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
“I had a shocker!” Delovski said with a laugh. “I gave out two red cards, so the memories aren't that good but, I continued to work hard, hoping that I'd get another opportunity and when one fell my way, I didn't look back.”
Delovski has achieved much during his time as a referee, officiating an A-League Grand Final, as well as matches in the AFC Asian Champions League and on the international stage in the East Asian Championships.
It is a long way from his humble beginnings at the age of 15.
“It feels like yesterday that I was progressing through the leagues," Delovski said. “Back then, I was dreaming of doing just one A-League game, so to be preparing for my 100th is quite incredible. You have to work hard and take your opportunities, and it's worked out quite well so far.
“Getting my FIFA badge in 2009 was a dream come true. Being part of the Asian Elite Referees panel, refereeing in the Asian Champions League... I'd never dreamed of coming this far when I was 15 and starting out.
“I'm 38 now and with a family, my wife and two boys, international commitments and A-League commitments, it's been a bit of a juggling act.”
Delovski has spent nearly 9000 minutes as the centre referee in the A-League, not to mention other appointments as the fourth official. He has seen a lot of football through the nine seasons of the A-League and as well as some personal milestones, he is proud of the way the league has developed.
“There have been a couple of special moments,” he said. “The 2010 Grand Final between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC was pretty special and refereeing Japan v Korea in front of 60000 people in Tokyo was special, too.
“Seeing the way the A-League has evolved in the past few years has been phenomenal and I'm privileged and honoured to be part of it.”
Referees, like players, have ambitions to further their game and reach the very highest levels possible. Delovski, 38, is no different.
“I've established myself in Asia and I want to continue to do well there,” he said. “You never know what may come from doing well there. Obviously the pinnacle is the World Cup, but I'm enjoying the ride in the A-League.
“I'll continue to work hard and hopefully referee more Grand Finals, they're what you work towards. It's every referees dream to officiate in front of capacity crowds.
“But, without my family and without my employer it wouldn't be possible.”