It’s not every day you meet a FIFA official and a past education session this week had just that! A very entertaining individual, JF, briefed us on his journey through the ladder and a major recent FIFA tournament as well as being a prospective in World Cup 2014 Brazil.
A very enlightening and humorous presentation it was to be capped off by the ultimate FIFA Offside test. 25 videos in sequence of split-second offside decisions. FIFA uses this test from a pool of 200 videos to test its officials expecting a minimum passing grade of 19/25. I kept in mind the advice from the previous week’s instructor: Realise that our reaction time is slightly slower when we rely on vision to take our snapshot as by the time we whip our eyes from the kicker to the attacker, we have lose a few frames so we should dial it back slightly to make the decision. This was key as these videos did not play the audio of the ball being kicked and used stadium noise as interference to keep the videos neutral.
25 videos later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I received 18/25! Slightly peeved that it was one off the minimum FIFA passing grade but pretty good nonetheless. It was even more surprising to see that five people topped at that exact mark as the entire class was made to stand and sit down as a higher mark was continuously demanded. Three prizes were to be given out and five winners. One was already excluded because he was a National. That left four! We went into a round of sudden death where the difficulty of the videos was notched up to Hard. Same videos but this time we had to select the snapshot of the attacker/defender when the ball was kicked. This needed high concentration so everyone was dialed in. The first video was played and only one of us got it right. They got the prize and sat down. Three remained. Another round and only one person got it right. Two remained; me and a fellow referee a few seats beside me. The pressure was on.
I put my concentration on the final video. It played and I was just as unsure of the decision as I was for the previous ones (they were very tight). My gut told me it was C; the attacker’s body being completely offside with no visible gap between them. I heard someone whisper in discussion behind me suggesting C as well. I thought back to the advice given… Dial it back. If there ever was a time to take a risk, it was now. I found the snapshot that was a frame earlier; A. I crossed my fingers as I decided to commit to that answer and JF questioned us. My opponent stated his answer as C. My heart skipped a beat. Had I taken the right decision? Next I was questioned. I said A. What was going to happen next? JF’s body language and reaction was serious but it was clear that one of the decisions were correct. Was it mine? I didn’t think so. I should have just stuck with C maybe. Initial gut reaction. He picked up the prize from the desk and walked over towards us aiming for halfway between us. I could feel my heart pumping faster. What was the right decision?!!! He had reached the end of his walk and started to lean over towards my opponent. I felt my heart beginning to sink but all of a sudden, he shifted towards me; he had feinted! I’m not sure how I looked but I’m sure my jaw would have been dropped if I hadn’t suppressed myself. I smiled and accepted the prize. The advice had worked! Odd in this case… Quite the dramatic ending for me and I’m sure most people would be thinking that it’s just a quiz! It was a test of my knowledge on the line! It’s always like this for me.
Another education session on Assistant Refereeing had us on our toes; literally! It was good fun and one particular exercise was memorable.
Participants formed a circle and passed the ball between each other. Meanwhile, an assistant referee stood on the touchline with the flag in the right hand and had to stay in line with the ball. Quite the challenge when the ball was being passed from end-to-end in the circle with sharp, quick passes. I remembered a fellow referee in the circle saying “Relax” jokingly while I was the Assistant Referee hopping from side-to-side at top speed. The instructor, ADL, warned that the favour may be returned when the roles were reversed. Indeed it was and ADL obliged when we changed turns. He positioned me further out to form a larger circle and the passing became more drawn out and quicker. Boy did we give my friend a work-out! He was panting for breath by the end of it. It was all in good fun and we had a good laugh out of it together at the end of the exercise.