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After Representing USA in World Cup '98, Veteran U.S. Referee to Coordinate Activities of All USSF Referee Programs

CHICAGO (July 21, 1998) -- U.S. Soccer referee Esse Baharmast has been named Director of Officials of U.S. Soccer. It was announced today by Hank Steinbrecher, U.S. Soccer's Secretary General. Baharmast, who received international acclaim while officiating two matches during the recently completed 1998 World Cup, will coordinate the activities of all the USSF referee programs in his new role.

Before taking up his position at the U.S. Soccer House in Chicago on Aug. 3, Baharmast will complete his on-field duties as the referee at the 1998 MLS All-Star Game in Orlando on Aug. 2. His responsibilities in Chicago will include overseeing the registration, training, assignment and assessment policies for all USSF referees.

Baharmast became one of the World Cup's major stories during the tournament's first round when he called an 89th minute penalty kick for Norway in their 2-1 victory over Brazil on June 23. After the match Baharmast was unfairly criticized worldwide when television replays appeared to show no contact between Brazil's Junior Baiano and Norway's Tore Andre Flo. However, independent film crews and photographers pictures proved without question that Baiano had firmly pulled Flo backwards as he awaited a cross in the penalty area. Baharmast dutifully waited to see if any advantage would occur as the cross approached the Norwegian forward and when it di not, correctly whistled the penalty.

Baharmast was one of just 34 referees to officiate matches in France, and was the first American to ever referee two games at the World Cup finals. In addition to the Brazil-Norway game, he received high marks after opening the tournament calling the Nigeria-Spain contest on June 13, a 3-2 victory for Nigeria. Baharmast also served as the fourth official for Spain-Paraguay in the first round and France-Paraguay in the round of 16 during the '98 tournament.

Baharmast, who grew up in the Iranian capital of Tehran, got his start as an official only after an injury slowed his playing career. Not wanting to give up the sport entirely, the 44-year-old resident of Golden, Colo., became a referee, beginning with youth games and working his way up to high school and later college matches.

In 1981, Baharmast earned his first pro assignments, becoming a regular on-field official in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Ten years later, he received his first international appointment from FIFA as a referee assistant in a friendly between the U.S. and Uruguay in Denver on May 5, 1991.

Baharmast's impressive officiating resume also includes two stints at the CONCACAF Gold Cup (1996 and 1998), U.S. Cup '97, the 1997 Copa America, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the 1994 Pan American Games and the 1993 World University Games. At the '96 Olympics, Baharmast called three games, and became the only U.S. referee to officiate an Olympic semifinal when he whistled the Agentina-Portugal semifinal. He also called the inaugural game in MLS history back in 1996, when the San Jose Clash defeated D.C. United 1-0 on April 6, 1996. Later that year, Baharmast completed the trifecta by refereeing the 1996 MLS Final, A-League Final and U.S. Open Final.

In addition to his extensive background in officiating, Baharmast also has a National "B" coaching license, which he earned in 1982.

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