Fasting has been going on for a while now. Halfway point is passed and I’m sure it’ll be done sooner than I know it but it has been difficult managing it in general. I had an Over-35 Mens game to cover on the first day of the week. A friend needed me to cover the game so I accepted. He was able to give me a ride to the field in return since it was out of bus access but not that far either. The game was a rather chatty one with a lot of dissent. I had been warned that it was generally the worst age group to be officiating in in general. I was working with two very familiar officials who I was happy to see. I had brought my Iftar (dinner) to the game and was ready to have it at half-time but some of the player requested a slight delay in the kick-off of the game in order to break their fasts as well. The opposition was also waiting for a few players so we kicked-off slightly late but not by much. I worked on trying to anticipate play as well as enforce my presence. I had covered 8km in total.
A U18 Girls game and the main thing I remember from this game was the elegance and fantastic flag technique from my assistant referees. It was actually great to watch. I would definitely use them for a video tutorial if I ever decided to make one.
A semi-final cup game to follow the day after (Wednesday) as an assistant referee and that was to be assessed. We went to the game as a crew in one car. We arrived at the field early enough to calmly watch the prior game and have a chat. Having known both officials but rarely worked with each other often, it appeared to the assessor as though we were had worked together many times funnily enough! I knew players on both sides from this game from my Futsal team. The familiarity level of players in the league has been growing over time and I’m sure it has been the same for players recognising regular referees. I greeted players on both sets of teams as I spoke to the coaching staff to find out the jersey colours to be worn.
The game was soon under way and was quite competitive. I certainly had many offside decisions to make and a lot to do to talk to the left-backs near me. One of the players from the Futsal team I had managed seemed to run into marginal decisions that didn’t go in his favour so on a few occasions, I heard my name yelled across the field in appeal and anguish/frustration. I chuckled because that didn’t happen often. One was very close to marginal as the ball was played to him in the air over several defenders and he had been 5-6 yards behind the SLD. The ball was low enough that it appeared an intermediate attacker slightly flicked the ball when the player was in an offside position this time so the flag went up and so did the arms from players on the bench. They were only slightly satisfied when I explained why the flag had gone up on what, appeared to them, was an easy decision.
Friday was a day off of refereeing but a fellow colleague asked for guidance and instruction. He received feedback on improving game control and asked if I had any instructional resources. Instead, we met up and had a 2 hour discussion on it, let him take a look at some of the notes I had and ask follow-up questions that went on several tangents. He came with me to a nearby restaurant at sunset then to break fast with me. He hadn’t been fasting but it was nice having company for the meal. This was just a salad.
I had a line on Saturday not too far away but far enough to need a rental. I decided to take a day off and visit family for a day.
The game was quite competitive and the local crew I was working with was more than capable. It rained during the match but more of a misty rain that somehow left us drenched/wet.
Sunday was one of the few competitive Mens games I had in the season so I was really looking forward to it. One of the crew members came out of his way to pick me up and we arrived at the field an hour in advance to relax at leisure.
We had changed quickly and before I knew it, the game was under way. It was set to be a tough game with two local teams battling for the much needed points in league play.
There was plenty of man management to do and to change a bit of my style, I tried the approach of calling players by their names to find out that it didn’t work very positively but not severely negatively either. There were a couple of penalty kicks that resulted in cautions for tactical reasons. I was able to clearly instruct attackers and defenders to stay outside the penalty area and with body language, had them stay out until the kick was taken and thankfully no encroachment. The second penalty incident was more interesting in that the defender grabbed the attacker’s shorts and it extended. It was immediately released. The attacker took a few steps in the penalty area before tumbling. My AR immediately flagged and I blew the whistle. Simulation did run through my mind but the blatant holding was at the forefront. Both players were called. I cautioned the defender for the foul and then the attacker for embellishing (not simulation). This may have caused a bit of confusion so I have been brainstorming better ways to execute the same thing with clear communication and disciplinary action.
This was hardly the major incident. Later in the game in midfield, a player who had been challenged several times throughout the course of play but was unsuccessful due to his size was attacking. The ball had just been passed to him and he was on my right side. As I turned quickly, with full view of a defender, he collided in a crunching, bone-jarring tackle with the attacker sending him to the ground. I blew the whistle immediately but before I could react further, the attacker retaliated with a kick to the leg of the defender. A little mayhem ensued before the crowd of players backed away. I summoned both players away from the general thick of things. My AR1 called me over quickly to confirm my action before I subsequently dismissed both players.
The game calmed down thereafter; almost eerily so. At least for a game with 8 yellows and 2 red cards.
The week was meant to be off for the most part but on short notice, an injured colleague was looking for a replacement so I rushed to a surprise double-header on Monday. Things have changed this year but more to discuss on that at the end-of-the-year. Don’t want to take all the content away from that so soon.
The Monday game certainly started with a bang. The injured colleague was able to give me a ride to the field since I only found out about the game needing covering 45 minutes before KO and had to run 3-4km to the bus in a rush to get home, change and make my way to the field not too close either. I arrived with a few minutes to spare. Started with a bang because 1 minute and 24 seconds in, a DOGSO incident occurred in the penalty area. Due to the accidental nature of the collision, I elected to go for simply a caution and PK. The defender was behind the attacker and the attacker’s leg hit the defender’s leg during his stride.
I had a defender yell about an offside not long after and promised to return to deal with him. He was apologetic immediately and didn’t have an outburst after. It was recreational after all and I didn’t want to take a firm hand to ruin the game as many players were there to enjoy the game and kick the ball around. The player returned to commit 5 fouls over the course of the game and I felt each time as though it was time for persistence to be dealt with but the players got on with the game so smoothly and without complaint that I was almost quizzical about it and whether it warranted action. All careless of course.
The line to follow was interesting as I had a goal line decision to make where the ball struck the inside underside of the crossbar, hit the ground inside the goal and then came out. Luckily I was in position to raise the flag and then subsequently sprint once eye contact had been made with the referee. The defending team had started arguing about something once the goalkeeper had snatched the ball after the goal and didn’t realise until 30 seconds later that a goal had been awarded which led to all sorts of questions to me.
Did I mention I use a lot of snail mail because of gamesheets? I had never used it in my life before but now I mail a lot.
Another surprise game the next day from the same colleague. One of my ARs, coincidentally who I met the night before, commented on my running and count of steps saying I was probably far above average.
Thursday capped off what was my favourite game of the year so far. It wasn’t a very high calibre game in the level but it was in the quality of play and how my performance turned out. I felt I had dealt with dissent appropriately, been where I needed to be and my signals were sharp. The game was capped off with a 91st minute winner. I decided to see what setting a bar at the start of the game would do and so carried a low foul threshold at the start.
It felt a bit weird since a lot were light contact or what fans would call “soft” fouls. It was only the beginning of the game after all and a player gave me a raised eyebrow as I explained 7 minutes in. Things went smoothly from there so I released the threshold and extensively made use of the “wait and see” technique to look for advantage opportunities. This was quite noticeable to all players on the field and they settled into the game assured that having been fouled that a delayed decision would follow if there was no chances of development into a promising attack. It was enjoyable to do this and there being no resulting retaliation from impatience. Worked well on the day but may not have in different circumstances.
70 minutes into the game, a defender impeded the progress of an opponent on the corner of the penalty area. I waited a second and possession inevitably switched hands. I blew the whistle and took a few steps before I was at the spot. A player from across the field shouted “It’s indirect, right ref?” in a non-demanding manner but more of a polite question. The voice had come from behind in the other half so I just shouted verbal confirmation. After setting up the wall and an inevitable vanishing spray joke too, I raised by hand and shouted “It’s indirect”. I blew the whistle, the kicker squared up and kicked the ball over the wall. The goalkeeper jumped to make a save as it was going over him but under the crossbar and it struck the back of the net sending a huge ripple. I didn’t expect it to happen but remembered my hand was up and a quick blow of the whistle during the start of celebrations and a goal kick signal that may have surprised and reminded a few people. After all, I had just indicated verbally as well that it was indirect. The defending goalkeeper looked as though he wanted to make contact with the ball for a save but I suppose he was lucky he didn’t. As I started back-pedalling, he asked me if the restart was a kick where the initial free kick was taken but I indicated that it was a goal kick with a smile.
During a one-man attack on the left wing, the attacker lost the ball and as a defender gained possession and attempted to move away from goal. The attacker had pushed him carelessly and a whistle followed. This followed an outburst claiming it was a dive. My vision was obstructed to see if it had been an easy fall but I had seen enough to witness the push. This was an important moment in the game. As some shouting ensued. I moved to the spot of the foul and summoned both players. In the build-up to this, I blew the whistle repeatedly to get their attention and interrupt their shouting match. When they arrived, the attacker proceeded to talk quickly and I had to quickly stop him. Once he stopped, I had both of them calm down. I felt I had dealt with this effectively in order to prevent dissent further.
The 91st minute brought the winning goal where the pitch and sidelines erupted. It had been a close game.
Did I mention one AR was missing? That meant almost double-mileage because 5.5km in the first half and just under that for the second since I had to move much deeper on one side. It was literally an end-to-end experience for me. I spent some time repairing the nets before the game having done a pitch and net inspection. All the signs were that it was going to be a competitive game (in a recreational league) and all the games in my previous weeks had been one-sided.
I was on a high after the game feeling that I could really have a great season if I continued on the same stride and replicated it in higher levels of competition.
Because I’m single and a student, 99.9% of my time is spent with refereeing so it can really bring me in good spirits or down in the dumps. These past two weeks have been up and down with disappointment and personal triumphs. A lot to do with looking to the future but things will reveal their course in time.
I spent the few hours before game time on Saturday to find a new music playlist for my pre-game and I was changing it all up this time. I hopped into the rental car and got stuck in a bit of slow traffic for a bit before I got to the field. I found that I was able to find a great comfort level in wearing the Ervocom receiver and my heart rate monitor this game as I never had to look at either of them to adjust until I took them off at the end. I was working with two referees that I knew but hadn’t worked with before or recently at all. They both were local for the game but I had a fair bit of travel to the field.
I was surprised to see so many familiar referees at the field. There were two side-by-side turf fields and the other refs were there for the other game. One had also come to watch. The match proceeded without difficulty or complaints. I raced home to return the rental car in time and made it on time by a matter of seconds.
Long distance trip this time with a few friends to do a trio of games on Sunday.
I took the Womens recreational game in our set of three games. Thunder was soon looming on the horizon and the match was suspended to further assess the situation. 12 minutes later, the match was resumed since there was no sign of an immediate threat. Only 13 minutes later, it appeared again and within 30km and the match was subsequently abandoned. The conditions calmed after a while prior to the next match, but cropped up again and the third and final match abandoned. We, the crew, went to a local restaurant to have a small meal before heading home and arriving late night before another work week.
I feel the past two weeks has been a huge practice in delivering pre-game instructions given that I have worked with so many different crews and that I am getting quite used to covering each point although I need to get used to covering points I consider extras as well.
Fasting is just concluding now with Ramadan ending. Managing refereeing amidst it has been a difficult challenge but the finish line is in sight.