A late recap but a recap nonetheless. Better late than never as they say.
An Early Start
So Match Day 1, Saturday, was very interesting. An early start to the morning was spelled with my phone vibrating at 5:45am. I slapped it for a snooze until 5:50am before I fully opened my eyes to see that it was still dark outside. A colleague of mine had offered to give me a ride to the tournament venue; a college in the destination city which was 45 minutes drive away. He mentioned that he would pick me up at approximately 7am so I went through my usual morning routine and had a quick breakfast of cereal. I didn’t have time the night before to supply my gamebag with the day’s needs (extra drinks and snacks) and extra clothes so I allocated some time in the morning routine. I dressed up in business casual attire (although not required but rather out of courtesy). Now business casual in my field/industry is defined rather differently; software developers don’t really communicate with customers all too often. In summary, t-shirt and pants.
I spent the last 45 minutes leading upto the pick-up reviewing the Futsal Laws of the Game on my computer although I didn’t really know where to look. The general context of the Laws are similar to the outdoor counterpart, football, so I had a quick read of Law 12 to be safe; Fouls & Misconduct. BG and JG picked me up not too long later and we had a great discussion as well as testing each other on the LOTG on the drive over to Oshawa. They are both my mentors so I asked several questions that were plaguing me having encountered them out on the pitch. I was also serving as the navigator as BlackBerry Maps proved useful in locating the venue. BG knew the exact building once we had reached there. Smooth sailing so far and we had arrived at the location at around 8:15am.
The Other Officials
BT and several other volunteers were already in the main gym area for the “Taping Party” setting out the gyms to conform to the pitch requirements of Law 1 from the Futsal LOTG. They enthusiastically greeted us and a few minutes later a few other referees had arrived in time for the 8:30am pre-tournament briefing to take place for the referees. We gathered in the room upstairs to meet the officials who had journeyed down for the Cup. It was definitely a new experience to me as I didn’t know any of them and was unsure if any of the Toronto Futsal referees did. Soon enough we had all arrived and I knew more than half the people in the room from the Futsal league.
A quick review of major points as well as a skim of the Laws had us ending the meeting at 9:50am giving the first game officials about 10 minutes to get changed and to start hustling to their games to start them on time. I didn’t worry as much because my first game as Referee 1 for a U14 Boys fixture was an hour later but my heart rate started to increase. I would have preferred a more subtle start in the Provincial championships as Referee 2 or Referee 3 to scout the scene but the deep plunge it was.
I arrived at the pitch to watch the previous game and see the previous crew at work. They had the game well in hand. As the clock ticked closer to my kick-off, I exited the gym to the hallway and started my own warm-up as I didn’t have time in the morning to stretch my legs or do any yoga to let my muscles “unweave”. A few short sprints and some light jogging barely sufficed but I was short on time so I re-joined the crew as well as the third member who was an official in the gym. We proceeded to the Timekeeper’s bench area once the buzzer had sounded and immediately started with the pre-game duties. I called the captains, kept the meeting brief and tossed the coin. The usual! Everything was ready for kick-off and the game was under way. Nothing major happened although I do clearly remember some great goals netted by one of the teams who won by a clear margin. WI was also assessing me from behind the Timekeeper’s bench so it was hard not to overhear the discussion between a few people right behind me (3 yards) as my head was focused on play whipping back and forth across the pitch.
My second game is henceforth known as the “train-wreck”. It seems to be the favourite reference now and is going to be hard to kill so it’s going to be difficult to forget. I’m not quite sure what really happened to cause it since my matches are usually under control but U16 Boys in a different sport is always a challenge. I had never done this age group before let alone the level. I had to hand out three cautions; one to calm the mounting tension and two for a reckless challenge and retaliation just when the buzzer for full-time sounded. Either way I didn’t feel to great about how it panned out and neither was the general reaction to it.
Rest of the Day
Referees remember the bad decisions they make and games they have as was the case so the rest of the day wasn’t very memorable since those games went well. I spent my breaks watching other referees’s games and/or sitting with assessors (with permission of course).
The final game turned out a lot different. I could only remember my bad game so I was deeply focused on redeeming myself. An added bonus was that the assessor was watching my game again from the timekeeper’s table to I really had the opportunity to turn things around. Also having had experience doing U16 Girls from the league, I was more comfortable and decisive although there were two decisions (penalty & IDFK) that left everyone very confused. I’m not sure why since I signalled and loudly communicated the decision. That really had me puzzled but the overall atmosphere of the game was good.
The anticipation was now on. I was slowly packing my referee equipment away such as cards, badge, whistles, pens as BT started talking but then stopped immediately as it was rude. I knew my performance could not match that of the senior, experienced officials who vastly outstripped me in all regards so I was not as concerned about hearing my name from the officials to take charge of the three finals in place the next day. The assessors, WI and BT, congratulated us all on our performances and had a lot of kind words to give out to each official. I’m sure if we had the full story, it would have been a long night indeed since there was great improvement and showing of skill from everyone! The major focus of the improvement points were to the freshmen officials who had little overall Futsal experience and were working in the Futsal Cup for the first time. I sheepishly rubbed my brow when BT enthusiastically brought up the train-wreck game I had had and compared it to my final game performance which shone far brighter. Everyone was smiling at this point and I felt oddly happy and embarrassed at the same time.
The officials for the finals were then proceeded to be announced in the order of U14 Boys, U16 Girls and finally U16 Boys. As I heard the names of the officials announced which was slightly drawn out and was politely stated by the Head of Officials, BT, I could feel an eerie tension reminiscent of a group of serious referees looking on in anticipation of the appointments. Just as I saw the video from Kill the Referees. A very interesting experience to go through. I didn’t have much to hope for with the image of the “train-wreck” still vivid and tormenting in my mind but I was interested in hearing how things would proceed. Surely but slowly they announced the referees in order of Referee 1, 2 & 3 in increasing order of the division. There weren’t any major surprises until BT mentioned my name as the Third Official for the U14 Boys division game. I was surprised to hear it but knew that my vengeance to have a far better game on my last game of the day had been the saviour. I graciously accepted the appointment.
The U16 Girls final proceeded to be announced as an all-female team who no doubt would be able to take charge as the officials were of top calibre from what I saw of their performance that day. Then it came down to U16 Boys. The most senior and experienced officials would have to be chosen and there were several of them in the room and just three spots to fill. How would they do it?! It is and was an impossible decision to make as I looked on at all the known candidates for the final. In the end, some referees were deemed senior enough and having taken charge of the final before that they were considered part of the mentoring crew for their younger brethren. Both of the officials I had carpooled with that morning were appointed alongside an official AC who had shown his prowess over the years.
The day winded down past this point as everyone cheerily left the room to what was a tiring day. We collected our bags and belongings from the Referee room and trudged back to our vehicles discussing what had happened and what was to happen the next day. A little past 10pm and I had arrived back home from a super tiring but fun day!