This part is almost exclusively for the weekend’s activities.
I had a very interesting game on the Saturday. I had never officiated at this level before and it was a promising prospect. I had been fretting a bit about getting some business wear together because pre-game attire was a suit! I hadn’t worn one for years including a shirt. I’m so used to wearing t-shirts including at work because it just worked that way in my field of work. The closest I had got to was business casual for certain games. I ensured I had everything ready the night before so I could find it easily the next day and just in case I needed to borrow something last minute from someone.
This photo isn’t great considering it’s on my wrinkly bed.
Nevertheless, I spent the morning with a refereeing mentor of mine helping him with some computer issues.
I got back home and started getting ready at 4pm. It was a 7pm game. I had all my clothes laid out and I transferred all my gear from my medium size adidas carry bag to my large adidas trolley bag. The field was fairly close to my house. A 19 minute walk and likely a 3 minute drive. Or maybe I was imagining 19 minutes since I walked in the heat in a suit. I did notice a few people turn heads as I walked by because most people were relaxing in shorts at Starbucks enjoying a cool drink and then saw me walk by in a suit and trolley bag! I listened to music the whole way for my mental preparation.
I arrived at the stadium only a minute behind the referee and the other AR. I saw them enter the facility as I entered the parking lot.
It was a relaxed pre-game considering we were there 90 minutes before kick-off. We first walked around the field in our business wear to inspect the surroundings. We noted the issues and tried to fix the minor ones but let the facility staff know before returning to the changing rooms. The coaching staff of the away team saw us walk by and commented saying they felt massively under-dressed! There was a good laugh off of that.
An early offside decision to make and it was tight. Play continued and a goal was scored early. Often we don’t get chances to look back on decisions and get a concrete answer but I was able to here as the home team captured footage of the incident and I could breathe a sigh of relief that I was right having reviewed the replay today.
A little way into the second half, the flag slipped out of my hand. I caught it before it fell flat on the ground and luckily nobody saw despite being in front of the fourth official’s table because play was on the other side of the field.
Ordinarily there are three items that an assistant referees should focus on. I like calling it the three-item-swivel. The ball/play, the referee and the second last defender. Sometimes they overlap but these three things at minimum need to be watched but I felt there was a fourth on this day. It was the entire field of play and surroundings. Being a new league it was something new to experience and felt like the extra item that I was watching making it slightly more difficult. It was nonetheless very enjoyable.
The funny part about leaving the changing rooms is that the games are run in a professional environment and referees are provided good facilities. This meant refreshments were provided too. There was a pack of water given. Probably a 16/24-pack. If it had been Gatorade/Powerade, I would have been all over it but alas, I took a few bottles of water. The rule is to take everything. Not taking will send the message that we don’t want refreshments. lol!
Sunday I worked a bit on the local RA’s website and got ready to travel. Again a long commitment but this time because of a long drive.
There was plenty of traffic during the drive despite leaving quite early so I got changed in the car.
We arrived at the location finding the previous game still going on. Straight to the changing room to find the local AR. I had met him once two year ago on the field but we had never worked together. I’m sure he didn’t remember me as it was a brief encounter. We were both the same classification of refereeing. My Refsworld organiser proved to be very useful due to the rain during the drive that left the field conditions damp. I was able to put the gamesheets into the back pocket and carry the equipment to the field neatly and professionally. The balls were pumped and we were ready to go soon enough.
After a quick net check, I unlocked my Garmin watch with a swipe and started it along with my G-Shock after I saw the referee about to start his own. The assessor had listened to the pre-game instruction in the dressing room before making his way out. I noticed he sat on the far side of my touchline.
I had a very early offside decision to make and it was pivotal. Sometimes the scenarios can be foreseen because from reading the play, the 2nd last defender and I both saw the cross about to be put in to an attacker. The defender was barely a meter away facing upfield and he tried to jump off his back foot to trap him. The ball was kicked. I was in the right position. It was tight. It was very tight. I mean very very tight. I had practiced this dozens and dozens of times at home the FIFA video offside tests. They were just as hard if not harder. I took the snapshot after a quick swivel of my head and dialled it back one frame (as I was taught). The defender’s back foot as was the case in 90% of the FIFA offside videos put the attacker onside. So much to process in the instant of a second because the attacker’s outstretched arms didn’t help. It made him look much further forward than he actually was. Deleting that and making the judgement, I sprinted after. No flag. A few seconds later. Goal.
Another more interesting incident this game was the ball ping-ponging between the halves and majorly between the centre of the field. The referee had a bit of running around to do. Suddenly, I heard a player yell “Referee! Look at your assistant”. The ball had just been on my side so he looked over at me. I furrowed my eyebrows at first wondering what he was talking about and gave a thumbs-up. The referee turned back to play. A few seconds later, I noticed a raised flag on the other side for offside. Time had passed but I needed to get the referee’s attention. I yelled his name a few times. He looked over to me. I pointed over to the other side behind him “Over there”. He turned, saw and reacted accordingly. I chuckled about the incident after the game thinking about the mechanics of the whole incident (how it had played out).
Two of the coaches for the home team were dismissed one by one and during the second one’s outburst, I quickly ran down the touchline from the second last defender to stop the attacking team from taking a quick throw-in while the referee had gone to deal with the dismissal. Both of the previous two things was seen by the assessor and plus points in my favour.
Areas of improvement now…
I had a bad habit of having my arm held back slightly behind my body while signalling for throw-ins. I received this feedback a long time ago and corrected it. Or so I thought I had. Funnily enough, I was only doing it for my right hand now so that was something I am more cognizant of.
The other incident is perhaps slightly debatable (for me at least). Two attackers were in an offside position. One in the middle of the pitch and the other on the far side. They were clearly offside and the ball was kicked near me forward. I expected the ball in it’s flight to swing to the far side to reach the attacker who was in complete open space. The goalkeeper came charging out in the build-up and first few seconds. I raised the flag quickly expecting an imminent collision but the ball instead flew straight and into the hands of the goalkeeper. It led to a wave-down from the referee (of course) as it should have been and a remark post-game on a longer wait-and-see. I was sure that had the ball have swung and I reacted upon seeing that the reaction time between the flag and whistle would not have been able to prevent the collision.
My mark came as an 8.4/10. I know it’s a pass but I don’t know how good it is since I am adjusting to the new system. I might understand it later down the line.
The grief of losing some piece of referee equipment is sometimes indescribable. I mean I lost a pen I had got from refereeworld.com worth just a dollar or two but it can be maddeningly annoying. Apparently the coach that was dismissed had it. I’ve lost coins and armbands in the past and I’m not sure if anyone else go through this but it makes me rather annoyed. I mean two things in the span of a week! Pen and flag cap.
I took some time to review my heart rate data over the past year looking at distances, heart rate and averages. It was interesting to see that maximum exertion in all my exercise was during the fitness test where I had a max heart rate of 201. My first game of the season then had a 196 but everything thereafter has been in the realm of 90-95% MAX HR and generally showing that I’m not pushed to the limit (which is good).
Following the game on the ride home, I had an extensive chat with the referee about elements of his style in the game. After all, games like these were an opportunity for me to learn how I could improve my own refereeing and what I had to incorporate to do so.