AWARD-WINNING referee Buyile Gqubule, 47, is retiring after he failed a fitness test for top-flight referees.
Gqubule, a holder of the highest national refereeing certificate (Level 7), did not achieve the required standard in July.
Last Sunday, he failed a retest in Kroonstad, after which he announced his immediate retirement this week.
The Uitenhage-born referee's 19-year officiating career began in the lower ranks while he was still a Manchester United (Amarhambha) player in the 1980s.
He climbed to the First Division in 1997, and then made it into the Premier Soccer League.
Gqubule will nowconcentrate on developing upcoming referees in Nelson Mandela Bay.
"After due consideration, taking into account age and a recurring [knee] injury, I feel now is the time to call it quits," he said.
"I have no regrets. I have enjoyed a fruitful 19 years on the pitch. I would mostly like to thank Safa [South African Football Association] and my colleagues for the support in making my refereeing journey a success.
"I've enjoyed every moment of my work, with the greatest highlight being involved in Africa's biggest derby – the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates Soweto showdown – three times. I've done all the country's derbies," Gqubule said.
"I've made mistakes, like any other referee, but the worst was the SAA Super 8 final between SuperSport United and Dynamos, where I disallowed a legitimate goal. I felt bad after I reviewed the tapes at home.
"I wrote an apology letter to Safa's referees board and United the following day."
About his referee development goals, he said: "[In the Bay region], we have more than 50 level 4 referees at the Local Football Association who, with support and guidance, have the potential to be among the best in South Africa.
"We hope to see them move on in their careers to become Fifaaccredited referees ..."
The acting head of Safa's referees department, Lindile Kika, said Gqubule's exit was a big loss.
"It is sad to have to part ways with one of our most proficient referees in South African football.
"He contributed immensely, and I would like to wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
"When he took the decision to retire, he said his priority would be developing upcoming referees in the lower leagues in his hometown," Kika said.
Friend and colleague Sphiwo Jibiliza said he was shocked when news broke about Gqubule's retirement.
"As a professional referee assistant, I've worked with him for more than 12 years and I wasn't expecting him to retire now ...
"He's very good at his job and he always offered support to his colleagues," Jibiliza said.