This was a hectic day because from nothing to a very tiring day with two heavy games.
Also imagine that. A post dedicated to just one day of football.
I initially had this designated as laundry day and I was worn out from the week from running around for errands or games with late nights and early mornings. My plan was to sleep in on Sunday and fully recover but I groggily woke up at 11am (I had planned to wake up later) to find a message of a scheduler looking for a referee in the adjacent district for a Mens league game. I quickly judged the situation; 80km trip, 4.5 hour commitment. I needed to rent a car for any hope to get to this. I did a quick financial feasibility check. I would still be in the green to go but 81% of my game fee would be obliterated on the travel expenses. No matter. I wanted the game, the experience and the football. I responded as soon as I saw it; 45 minutes after receiving (it was a blast e-mail).
Got the confirmation 30 minutes later and I scrambled to find out the teams, exact location and crew. Actually I knew the teams and location since I went on the league website to do my research while awaiting the confirmation e-mail. It was just the crew I was wondering. No familiar names but definitely nice to work with a new set of faces. Since it was such a short timeline, I didn’t have much time to reach out to the crew and sort out matching uniforms so I prayed all would go well.
I hopped online to quickly book the rental car and I had it for 4.5 hours. I predicted an hour’s travel, 30 minutes before the game of prep, 2 hours game time and 1 hour back. I got my bags ready, got dressed and put my tracksuit on. I quickly went to get some cereal so that I would have something in my stomach (it would be a while before my next meal) and since I didn’t want to eat something heavy.
Having worn the 2014 adidas uniforms a few times. Yes. I approve. I love them. They are very light and comfortable to wear. I cannot vouch for their insulation/thermal properties come Fall when it will be cold. It has been much better than the 2010 counterparts. I think I developed a neck allergy to the collar at some point but it subsided. It was probably designed for the Brazilian weather particularly in mind.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I parked the car on the side of the road near the field. I am still, technically, a novice driver so having made the trip successfully was an accomplishment.
The day was far from over however.
When I told my ARs of my transport plight they looked at me with incredulous expressions. I couldn’t help but chuckle inside. It is and hopefully always will be a hobby I enjoy while the intrinsic motivation is there.
The first thing that was said to me before kick-off as I handed the ball to the home team was that I was the youngest ref they have ever seen manage one of their games.
The game soon kicked off and I could say it had a quiet start considering the first foul was only at the 4th/5th minute and the intensity didn’t quite pick-up yet. I tried to keep the game modest for the first little while to set a standard of control. It went fine but then borderline reckless fouls started coming in and I started verbally chatting with players either in passing or admonishment. Perhaps a caution here would have set the tone but calling these fouls continuously frustrated some of the players on the home team as it continued. The away team had younger/smaller players that were being fouled. I only realise this upon reflection. Nobody got injured or excessively upset so in the flow of the game, they may have appeared as though I was calling a succession of careless fouls for a while.
A telling moment in the first half was on an attacking play by the away team towards goal. The ball was moving forward towards goal but the centre-back was pegged to get to it first (only a few yards away). An attacker gave chase and as he neared, the defender appeared to lose balance while running (of his own accord) and then received a shoulder charge which set him off balance sending him to the ground as the ball was in playing distance in front of both of them. Key moment.
Blow the whistle, award a DFK and the defending team would be happy. The attacking team would complain a bit having been already 1-0 up but would forget it in due time.
What really happened
I certainly didn’t travel or commit to refereeing to make the easy decisions or make everyone happy. I knew that it wasn’t going to be the most popular decision on the field but my goal was to appropriately execute the Laws and maintain match control. I had instinctively raised the whistle to chest height in my decision/thinking time. Fair charge. Nothing there. Play on. Luckily the goalkeeper did not switch off and came out of goal to close the angle on the attacker now 1-on-1. Unfortunately a chip beat him. Goal.
I’m sure you can imagine the defender who was challenged was not happy about the decision. He loudly voiced this. The problem here was that him losing balance was not evident to everyone. It seemed only the attacker and I saw this. I had a bad habit of lingering when I know the trouble is about to come which makes it appear as though I am a little indecisive. Need to move on quickly from now on when I see it coming.
At the halftime whistle he looked to be coming towards me and I quickly evaded him and waved for him to go away as loudly as I could. Luckily with a teammate’s help and what I like to think is my “proactiveness”, a caution and a heated argument was avoided.
The second half I stopped the niggly business and let them go a bit. I was aware this time that I was letting those particular “challenges” go. The game opened up more and there were less complaints as well. The real enjoyment of the game came here and I was able to smile for a good part of it and truly be happy how it was going. There were several chances on goal that were missed and a goal line scramble as well. In the end, the home team directed their first half frustration to me upon being unable to take their chances. I was a little disappointed I gave any reason at all for that but it’s implicit feedback for next time.
At halftime, I met again with my ARs and they seemed happy with how I had worked with them. They were both more experienced than me in years of refereeing. I continuously look over to them and give eye contact. My beliefs are that you should treat your ARs how you want to be treated. It’s easy to understand how it is to be an AR because we often act in both roles so the difficulties can be understood and worked with to make sure everyone enjoys the game. It was noted that I was letting the players talk too much back to me. Another area that I hadn’t addressed yet. In my effort to enhance communication, I have to tread lightly on the line of what brings the game into disrepute.
During the second half, I positioned myself for a goal kick outside the drop zone (edge of centre circle) not too far from my AR. I turned to look at her and smiled. I gave her a thumbs up and she started looking around (probably wondering whether I was approving a substitution). She looked back quizzically and I adjusted my position to move slightly closer waved back saying “I just wanted to say hi”. She smiled back and waved and we had a good laugh.
One of the approaches I have been playing with is an empathetic role in the game and using it in rapport with players. Even when the match is heating up, I was able to chat with players of the aggravated team and have a laugh with them. Relationships with certain players during the game helped me control the game and restore control when it needed it. This part was truly fun. The unruly home team captain lost his composure with me and was exceedingly difficult to control so I began referring to his teammates as aids. Three cautions; two for dissent and one for USB in the end.
It was 154km round-trip to be exact.
Meanwhile, to waste the next two minutes of your life, I’ve got some footage of my drive.
Reflecting on this game, I thought I got into a bit of trouble calling the niggly fouls for a while in the first half as it built up a bit of frustration. Just something I’ve noticed over the past two games. It could be that. Something again to play around/experiment with in future games to see what style and thresholds work for me.
The ride back was uneventful but I did keep watching the clock hoping I would be returning it on time! I was a little worried about a potential muscle pull during the drive and how I would handle that. Side note: I managed to figure out how to work cruise control which was cool.
Flashback five hours. As I had set off for the field and got on the highway, I got a call from a colleague (protege) about his evening game. On a side note, can a protege be a protege if he is older than me? Anyways… I was going out to watch since it was his first competitive Mens game middle. I remember last year same time when it was the same for me and my debut. Definitely a nervous affair given that it was a new level to officiate and a fresh new set of expectations including some frowns if it wasn’t to go well. He called to let me know one of his ARs might not be able to make it and that I should be on standby. I assured him I would help out if I returned in time (which I likely would).
Fast-forward. Arrived back to home city and dropped off the rental car and got into his car. Almost timed like clockwork. We went for a late lunch (probably dinner for him) together before setting out for the field and arriving almost an hour early.
We arrived at the field and it was a relaxed pre-game procedure given that we had plenty of time; even to chat with the players.
The game was under way and I was blinded by the sun on my left side. I knew it looked bad but I raised my hand to my face to block it out when looking towards the other half or centre of the field. I didn’t want to burn my retinas just trying to look good/credible. I’d rather see what is going on and make the calls. I had plenty of offside decisions to make in the first half and most being very tight.
At the end of the first half, two players engaged in a confrontation after a foul. I was closer than the referee so I ran in before the third man could but I was too late. The third man luckily pushed his own teammate back. Unfortunately for me, I was behind him and got pushed into. The only significant part of the collision was getting his studs in my shin as he tried to get his balance. I winced but didn’t react otherwise until I saw the eight stud imprints on my shin and grazes on my skin after the game.
I also lost my b&d flag cap during the confrontation and from a scan of the area a few times, I was unable to find it. That was a little frustrating as was noted by the away team manager as I walked off the field. I ordered a few extra caps from Germany the same night. Ervocom and b&d have such great customer service.
This game ended in four cautions, two dismissals (for the cautions) and the coach dismissed – all warranted of course.
I also received some kind words from a colleague of encouragement on my last blog post in particular. Drop a line if you are a regular reader. I love hearing about it. Just crossed the 38K view mark. 50 and 100K are the next milestones!
Three lovely days of recovery now.