The match was great fun and quite eventful. I hope I’ll get the opportunity to referee at this level or above in the near future.
I’ll try to re-account the situations that I still remember now and I can clearly discuss.
I arrived two hours before kick-off, did my warm-up and field inspection. Unfortunately due to tardiness on the part of other members, the game kicked-off 11 minutes late! Very embarrassing since even the U12 Boys games I do run more smoothly. Already points deducted here on my overall performance unfortunately.
I was definitely nervous during the game but it wore off after a while. It’s hard to be nervous for the whole 90 minutes! Also luckily enough, the assessor was up in the stands but I couldn’t see anyone in that direction because of the floodlights behind them so I didn’t bother looking that way too much.
The sixth minute of the second half was the real turning point of the game. During the build-up to a promising attack, Player 10 (striker) of the white team and Player 22 (defender) of the black team fouled each other. Trifling offences prior to this incident caused tensions to rise extremely quickly. Player 22 quickly got up off the ground and at that instance from his body language, I knew a mass confrontation was eminent. I was 6 yards from the incident and Player 10 approached Player 22 in a confrontation. From my reading and analysis on mass confrontations, I knew that if I wasn’t the third man in, I could lose control. Another player from the black team was a little less than 6 yards away from the confrontation on the other side and from reading his intentions, I could tell that he wasn’t approaching to calm the situation down. I pulled a full sprint to get in first and separate the players. Luckily enough, I was there first, in time to calm it down. I gave both players half a minute to cool off and then cautioned both of them for unsporting behaviour. This was the moment-of-truth in the game. The assessor later told me that it could have easily escalated into something much worse if I hadn’t managed it properly.
After play progressed from this restart, I tried not to linger too far away from the duo so that I could silence any off-the-ball chatter that may re-escalate the situation. Unfortunately enough as it is, I didn’t notice that the players had shook hands, had a laugh and moved on from the situation while I was on the other side so I served to ignite a few sparks. Nothing major came off of it but it was definitely a lesson learnt.
Player 10 was fouled several times during the rest of the game and tension was rising. Since Player 22 and Player 10 were naturally near each other because of their positions and everytime they had a clash or approached each other during developing play or an attack, I murmured to myself “Please don’t do anything stupid” repeatedly just praying that nothing would happen. Several fouls were awarded to tackles on Player 10 during the remaining time and the free kicks were awarded to him but it only served to raise the tension.
Finally in the 77th minute, Player 10 committed his last offence of the game. The white team’s attack was broken up and as a black team defender ran out of the left edge of penalty area in possession to clear the ball, Player 10 shoved him recklessly, out of frustration since they were down 3-1, and the defender was taken off his feet. I knew at that moment that he had pulled his last straw. I blew the whistle, pulled out a yellow, cautioned him, ran around the incident to isolate myself from the players near the corner flag, checked my book to confirm his first caution, displayed the red card and dismissed him from the field of play. The player appeared shocked at the second caution and argued that I wasn’t consistent in other plays but it was to no avail because I wouldn’t and shouldn’t change my decision. After a lot of argument and some refusal to leave the play, we restarted the game 5 minutes later and I was disappointed that he had to do it so late on in the game after so many warnings.
7 cautions all-in-all (a double; ejection) all for Unsporting Behaviour (aka reckless tackles) but the second caution for Player 10 which was for Persistently infringing the Laws of the Game.
Another incident happened in the 47th minute of play. A player from the black team was progressing for a promising attack. Player 19 from the white team aimed a reckless slide tackle from behind on the player but missed just as Player 22 from the black team played a through ball to a team mate getting closer to goal. I screamed “Advantage” with my arms forward in front of me but I saw that Player 22 was angered at the attempted tackle on him. I saw him turn around to confront and quite frankly “punch his lights out”. I screamed “Advantage” again to ensure he heard it and said I would take care of it before sprinting as fast as I could to catch up with play. The ball progressed out of play for a goal kick as the attack was unsuccessful but was a credible threat. I indicated the restart and requested a halt to play. I, then, ran over to find Player 19 to display the caution for the attempted reckless challenge since I had allowed play to continue for the advantage the other team had.
The assessment gave me a lot of good points to work on but I was disappointed to hear that I wasn’t upholding a lot of things I knew in my game.
Items that I have to work on in general or were incidental:
- my back was facing the penalty area activity during a free kick while I was speaking to a player. Somewhere towards the end of the game so I should have been facing play. I had approached the kick taker to see if he wanted me to enforce the required distance or take a quick free kick. He evaluated that he wanted to go immediately while things were in disarray, I quickly moved away, the kicker took the kick and it sailed just over the crossbar. Most of the players were shocked that it was taken so quickly
- consistency with foul recognition; this is going to be a very difficult one to work on because I’m not quite sure why this is an issue for me. Perhaps it requires more concentration.
- positioning on set plays; easy one to work on but quite silly that I messed it up. I was in the wrong position for the opening whistle but I realised when I had taken up my position and decided to proceed with the game rather than to loop around the centre circle. I was in the drop zone for goal kicks rather than just outside monitoring it although I didn’t cause much interference. I also opted for a different position on free kicks so that I could view the activity as opposed to the wall and kick-taker; perhaps too much focus on the activity as I missed encroachment several times. This is one mistake I will never forget.
- pre-game preparations; highly incidental because I gave myself time (2 hours early at the field). The arrival of the rest of my team and the field change 15 minutes prior caught me off-guard. I was demotivated by this from the get-go. Basics like checking the pressure of the balls and collecting game sheets and game fees before the game.
- carding mechanics; I was extremely shocked to hear this but apparently the way I showed the red card was very provocative because of how close I was to the player.
- clarification of applying the advantage clause; confusion on the difference between advantage and continued possession. This is a big one that I need to work on as it significantly can affect a game.
- clear and fluid set of pre-game instructions so that assistant referees don’t have the opportunity to be confused by it and understand.
- shifting/changing position on the field more often rather than craning at times around moving players to get a better view.
- tire at the end of the game; this was incidental because I was fasting that day and was tired prior to the game. The adrenaline kept my body going for the rest of the time.
The game ended for me on a sour note (for me) mainly because of the dismissal and because of poor teamwork on a member of the referee crew that really affected pre-game preparations. Seniority isn’t an excuse for stubbornness.
Could have gone differently on a different day with a different crew. I hope I get another shot soon and I’m satisfied with it then. I’ll likely hand-pick my crew then.
Despite the negativity in this post, the game was always under control and my communication never ceased with players to prevent unnecessarily heated situations so plus one for man management (the other name for refereeing)! The real perspective of the game will be determined when I receive an official copy of my assessment. A post to follow.