In late March, FIFA's six dozen World Cup referees and assistant referees have completed a comprehensive seminar in Seoul in preparation for the 64-match tournament starting in less than ten weeks? time.

The 36 referees and 36 assistants, from all six continental confederations, not only underwent the customary fitness tests but also participated in a series of talks and discussions designed to tune them up for the pressures of the World Cup.

All the match officials completed the fitness tests in the Seoul Olympic Stadium successfully, easily surpassing the 2,700 metre minimum mark for the 12-minute run with an average performance of well over 3,000 m.. One referee, however, was unable to take part for health reasons : Italy's Pierluigi Collina, who visited a local hospital on each of the three days with a throat infection exacerbated by a dust-storm that happened to hit the Korean capital at the same time as the course. However, Collina had passed the same type of fitness test earlier this month in the presence of FIFA refereeing officials and there is therefore no impediment to his participation in the summer.

A main theme of the seminar was that of cheating, with the referees and assistants again called upon to be extra vigilant with regard to players seeking to gain an unfair advantage by pretending to be fouled. The officials were assured by FIFA Referees' Committee members led by chairman Senes Erzik (Turkey) that they would have FIFA's full support in dealing with this type of offence.

The 72 match officials were also told who would be based in Japan and who in Korea during the first round of matches in May/June. The list is attached below. They will all gather first in Seoul, however, on 24 May, and the Japanese contingent will relocate to their hotel near Tokyo three days later. As at France 98, referees quartets will then travel to their respective match venues on either the day of the match or (more frequently) the day before, always returning to their national base afterwards.

"We were delighted with the exceptional spirit of the course and the high level of fitness on the part of all the referees and assistants," said FIFA referees' coordinator, George Cumming. "We're convinced that we have picked the best referees in the world to take charge of the best competition in the world, and that they will set standards for referees of all levels to emulate throughout the world."