A YOUNG referee is celebrating after being selected to officiate at a series of international games in China – kick-starting his ambition to blow the whistle at the highest level.

Luke Ryan, 22, is the only person from the North-East chosen by Tournaments Abroad to participate in the Great Wall Cup in Beijing, from July 14 to 25.

The 23-year-old of Newton Hall, Durham City, said: “I am one of ten people in the UK chosen to go to the tournament.

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“I have been refereeing for the last seven years and feel I have progressed and matured.

“When I have refereed games for Sunderland Academy, the respect I get from children and their parents is brilliant.

“I hope this trip to Beijing will be the start to greater things. I hope to go all the way and become a professional referee.

“I am young and ambitious and nothing can stop me from doing it now.”

All Mr Ryan has to do is raise the money for his air ticket to China.

Once he gets to Beijing he will be put up in a four-star hotel and will referee teams of different leagues and ages from around the world at venues used for the Beijing Olympics – including the famous Bird’s Nest stadium.

He received five assessments from Football Association officials before he was chosen.

Mr Ryan has refereed games for the Sunderland Academy, the Durham Alliance League and the Russell Foster League.

He is a Level Seven (junior) referee and hopes to be Level Six (county) referee by March.

In the next season he hopes to jump to become a Level Four (supply league) referee.