Ian McLeod was the first South African referee to take charge of a Fifa World Cup match. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

Long-serving soccer refereeing official Ian McLeod has died.

The South African Football Association announced on Twitter that McLeod, who became the first local official to referee a match at the Fifa World Cup, had been admitted to hospital last week and had passed away on Thursday night.

He was 63.

McLeod, who was also the principal of the Crawford Preparatory School in Pretoria, had served South African and world football for many years as a referee on the field, and in later years as a referee instructor for Caf and a Fifa assessor, as well as the referees manager at Safa.

His undoubted highlight came at the 1998 World Cup in France, though, where he made history for South Africa when he handled the match between Spain and Paraguay.

McLeod – known as “Mr Red Card” in soccer circles for his strict nature on the field – was also involved as a referee at the 1996 and 1998 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments in South Africa and Burkina Faso respectively, as well as the Fifa Confederations Cup in 1997.

IOL Sport