Game mourns Brent Best

New Zealand Football has joined the football community in mourning the loss of former referee Brent Best, who passed away suddenly last week.

Born in 1968, he took his first referee course in Oamaru at the age of just 15 and began refereeing seriously in 1992. He was a former FIFA Assistant Referee – holding that status from 2004 to 2012 – and achieved notable success, officiating in six FIFA tournaments and seven OFC events.

The highlight was the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he took part in the biggest footballing tournament on the planet as part of an Oceania trio with referee Peter O’Leary. He ran the line for 36 games in the old Australian National Soccer League (NSL) and current Hyundai A-League and nearly 90 times in the New Zealand national league, now the Stirling Sports Premiership.

The high quality and consistency of his performances were recognised in being named New Zealand Football Assistant Referee of the Year on three separate occasions – in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Following his retirement, he helped the next generation of assistant referees in Dunedin by taking training sessions and fitness tests. At the time of his passing, he was accredited as a Level 3 Assessor.

“His record shows a man who was determined, resilient and very talented,” New Zealand Football Referee Development Manager Ken Wallace says.

“Besty was a lively companion with a big heart – there was always lots of banter and laughter in his company. This is a real loss to the game and obviously for his family. Our thoughts are with his son Tim and family at this time.”

Former colleague O’Leary is struggling to come to terms with the sad news but managed to pay tribute to the fun nature of Brent’s personality.

“Words fail me at this time,” he says. “Besty was the loudest man in world football with his booming laugh.”

Fellow ex-referee Mike Hester believes Brent will never be forgotten by those who knew him well.

“I have great memories of a large number of adventures with him in New Zealand and overseas,” he says. “I will always remember his great sense of humour and colourful attitude.”

A funeral will be held for Brent on Thursday in Christchurch.