The Beginning Part 3: The First Taste of Dissent

Now being a referee is almost synonymous with receiving dissent and the first major part of it that I received was in a particular game approximately 10 games into my career. The three of us (JU, WB and myself) worked the the Schools League together for all home games at our school. It was good training in being an Assistant Referee with all the feedback we received from WB and in what was considered a derby match for the Senior U18 team, I had a fairly simple call to make that changed the complexion of the game.

Re-accounting this scenario from four years ago, my memory doesn’t serve me well although what I believed I saw is still clear.

  1. The ball is rolling towards the goal line inside the penalty area out of play after an attacker from the Away team touched it last. The goalkeeper, MS, picked up the ball on the goal line (~20% of the ball was still over the line, in the opinion of the assistant referee).
  2. I reacted accordingly by staying in line with the goalkeeper right on the goal line and without giving a signal as the ball was in play (over the goal line).
  3. The ball was dropped and a centre-back, NS, picked up the ball to place it for a goal kick. I was a little startled at this point since neither the referee nor I had signalled for a goal kick.
  4. As he squared up to take the kick, the referee, WB, blew the whistle to stop play and came running over to me. I had a small feeling that it was with regards to whether the ball was in/out of play but I wasn’t sure. This was the first time we had a conference. Sure enough, it was. I confirmed confidently that I was sure that the ball had never left the field of play.
  5. The rest is elementary, a penalty kick was called against the Home team and the field went in uproar as a simple misunderstanding on behalf of the team became a crucial mistake, a converted penalty and cost a valuable three points against a rival team.

The dissent I received after the game from some players was what I now consider, interesting. The only person who afforded me the luxury of being friendly was the GK, my classmate and good friend, MS. I never forgot that he had attempted to calm the others down who were upset by my decision despite whether it was right or wrong and if he had believed it so.

A few players consistently complained about it and were quite annoyed post-match when the referee crew approached the bench area and for the few days after. This was the first pressure I truly felt from players both on and off the field later. Now off-the-field pressure is one that is quite different to what most referees experience. As a referee, you come, manage a game and that’s usually the last you see of the players unless you bump into one somewhere or manage their game again. It’s quite a different story when they are classmates at the same school and it’s inevitable to face them again at the next game and/or at the next lunch break and the vast majority of them are seniors! Uncomfortable to say the least.

I was lucky to have my mentor closely guiding us at the time because for all I know, I could have quit then. Then this blog or URL wouldn’t even exist. Interesting how things work out the way they do…

As we are put to the challenge with more difficult games and higher levels of play, it is taken for granted that we need to accept and tolerate higher levels of dissent. Should this be the norm in our game today?

Have you met a player that has really really ticked you off and have had to bite your tongue to stop a retort and play the cool, calm professional demeanour? Hang in there.

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