Tija even played esports professionally in early 2000 and represented Indonesia in the World Cyber Games, which marked Indonesia’s first foray on an international esports stage.
At the time, being a professional esports player was not as promising as today, he recalled adding that his participation in tournaments at the time was funded with his own money.
Given his experience as a professional esports player, he was approached by the International Esports Federation (IESF) in 2016 to take up the role of an esports referee.
That recruitment involved applicants from approximately 25 countries, including European countries, Tija said. From the pool of candidates, only ten people were screened and accepted as official referees for international tournaments, he added.
“After a video call session, written and oral tests, sending my biography, and study case, they contacted me two weeks later. I was one of the selected 10 participants,” Tija said.
“I was the only esports referee (in Indonesia) to hold an IESF certificate,” he added.
Tija then officially received the title of an international esports referee. Though the certification was only valid for one year, he said he is still asked to referee esports matches often.
For example, in 2018, he was asked to be one of the referees in the esports exhibition at the Jakarta Asian Games. Likewise, at the 2019 Manila SEA Games, he was asked to be one of the referees by the Philippines Olympic Committee.
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Leading the match
Esports referees have to be on standby to anticipate technical problems when leading the match, he said.
"Either it is the smartphone (used by the players) suddenly turning off, the PC is not working, or when a player is cheating," he added.
Like referees in other sports, when a violation occurs, the esports referee also gives the first warning in case of a minor violation, a second warning when a moderately serious violation happens, and a third warning, equivalent to a red card, when a player commits a severe violation during the match.
For example, in the Mobile Legends game, esports referees can warn players who intentionally pick some heroes that should not be selected, he said. Referees also give warnings to players who curse during the match, he said.
He said the Papua PON's qualifying round has become one of the unforgettable moments in his career as an esports referee, he said.
"There was a child who lost a game, he made a mistake during the match, and we warned him, then, the mother called us," he said. But the decision remained final, he said.
For that reason, in addition to the ability to lead the match, according to him, esports referees need to have good communication skills too.
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Professional esports referee
For someone looking to become an esports referee, according to Tija, one important criterion is experience in esports events.
For this, having a background as a professional esports player is not always essential, he said. Those involved in tournament operations or who have experience as admins of esports matches also have the potential to become a referee, he expounded.
Currently, the 38-year-old is also involved in the refereeing committee and acts as an instructor. He is also active in the Indonesian Esports Executive Board (PB ESI).
According to Tija, esports referee training in Indonesia has been carried out since 2019, with one national referee selected per province.
"Later on, we will re-select national referees for the international level. There will be a TOEFL requirement later. There are also several tests, both oral and written or by video call," he informed.
Tija said esports referees are also not only fixated on one game. The same referee can hold licenses for multiple games by still adhering to the game developer’s rules, he explained.
Being a professional esports referee, according to him, is becoming more promising, given the current development of the esports world.
In addition, esports has also been featured in many multi-event games, and will soon be held, for the first time, in the XX Papua National Sports Week (PON), he said.
Indonesia even bagged gold at the 2018 Asian Games Jakarta esports exhibition and silver at the 2019 SEA Games in Manila, he noted.
People’s interest in esports in the country is indeed getting stronger, he remarked. This can be seen from the esports exhibition at the XX Papua National Sports Week (PON), which has attracted 205,692 registrations from all over Indonesia, he added.
Meanwhile, deputy general chair of the Indonesian Esports Executive Board (PB ESI), Commissioner General Police Bambang Sunarwibowo, said that the holding of the exhibition is a historic moment for Indonesian esports.
"Currently, esports has developed massively, and for Indonesian esports, this is a historical moment, especially for PB ESI to hold an esports exhibition," Sunarwibowo remarked.
"Through the Garudaku platform, we received 205,692 registrants. Of the total registrants, 49,905 people are athletes from 10,877 sports teams from 34 provinces," he informed.
A total of 188 athletes from 48 teams representing 25 provinces in Indonesia managed to pass the pre-PON qualifying round to compete in Papua, he said.
The XX Papua National Sports Week (PON) 2021 will be held in Jayapura city and the districts of Jayapura, Mimika, and Merauke from October 2-15, 2021. At least 6,400 athletes and 3,500 officials from 34 provinces across Indonesia are expected to participate in the games, which will feature 37 events.
The XX Papua PON esports exhibition will showcase four games: PUBG Mobile, Free Fire, Mobile Legends, and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2021.
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