The anticipation for the first game is always high considering there is more than six months indoors.
I planned every element of the pre-game build-up. Having arrived back in the country a little more than 48 hours before kick-off, my first priority was re-aligning sleep schedule so that I was mentally prepared. The first night I had to sleep in three shift segments. I spent the day after watching the first day’s tournament games and was out for 5 hours. This helped me stay awake for the rest of the day but I was worn out by the time I got home and was out like a light.
I didn’t have my entire kit with me for the games; just my umbro and I co-ordinated with the rest of my crew to make sure they at least matched as assistants; they wore the 2014 kits. The majority of my referee stuff was in storage or out of town. More on that in the next post.
I had several options to get to the field through colleagues but chose to make my own way. I caught the bus not too far from my house and it was crowded through till my next transfer but I plugged the iPod into my ears to develop my football mood. I arrived at the field more than an hour early so I could relax and go through the pre-game procedures. I looked onto the games being played and my referee colleagues managing the games.
I greeted the referee assignor for the tournament as I arrived; I had seen him yesterday and walked into the empty changing room. The prior match ended and I walked out immediately to do a pitch inspection on my own. The field looked fine and I was able to remove some blue tape that was lying around; presumably from a player who took it off during the game.
The game kicked off and my main area for improvement on the day was anticipating play and using my fitness when I needed to so I proceeded to read the play as best as I could to get to the destination. It worked well sometimes but other times, possession kept switching hands.
Notable incidents that occurred included an offside decision early in the game. An attacker played the ball forward to a teammate in an offside position. The ball was halfway on it’s path to the attacker when the assistant referee raised the flag. Almost at the same time, the attacker backed off and was inactive. The attacker who had made the pass instead ran onto his own ball and proceeded forward to goal. I thanked my AR for the flag and let play continue and sprinted after. Almost a few seconds later, it was a goal. I braced myself for the flak to come but none did. I was surprised.
As I walked back to the centre circle having signalled the goal, I heard a referee colleague of mine from the crowd yell “Great call!” I couldn’t help but chuckle inside because I knew who it was.
Later in the match, the most memorable incident of the match occurred. The home team made a break on goal. The attacker was running down the right wing with nobody to stop him. I was at the edge of the centre circle and sprinting behind play as it was almost impossible to have predicted. The goalkeeper came charging out and brought the attacker down with a high challenge. I blew the whistle long and hard. The speed that the attacker was moving forward took him off his feet and rolling on the ground after a yell. Everyone knew something was coming.
The goalkeeper turned to face me expecting something. Before I was about to pull the card out, I realised the injured player needed attending to. I quickly summoned the coach on and told the goalkeeper to stay where he was. Yellow was on my mind. I first thought that it was a tactical move. A promising attack but not an obvious goal-scoring opportunity given the direction to goal and distance. The tackle was no doubt reckless. It was a caution at minimum. As the coach was arriving and attending to the injured player, I tried to get my nearside AR’s eye contact to confirm the colour of the card by covering my badge. Unfortunately no luck and I pulled the goalkeeper aside. I told him what he had done was not acceptable and that he was being cautioned for it. He accepted his card and the game continued without trouble.
Later after discussion with the spectating referees, it was suggested I had missed an act of serious foul play. Reflecting on it and all the signs, I couldn’t help but be shocked. It was the first time I had ever seen SFP in-person and I had missed it. I had missed a red.
Perhaps I need to work on my CRE recognition but it’s a call that has been haunting me this past week.
Having chatted with an Australian buddy of mine later, he mentioned the dilemma of looking back at match incidents.
“It’s always: Should have been a red.
Never: Should have been a yellow”
That’s all for now but I’m still thinking about that incident.