A fellow referee and I, went to play some FIFA.
Needless to say he was destroyed the first game since he wasn’t used to the console. He improved over the last few games but I was the overall winner!
After the games, it was time to officiate some real games. I was doing some recreational womens games over the long weekend.
It was a fairly quiet game overall. It was one of those games where I needed to maintain a high level of focus and concentration to ensure I didn’t miss anything because a minute switched off is all it takes. I also worked with a personable crew.
Tuesday and Wednesday were break days so I used Wednesday evening for some light jogging. On a side note, my running loop was meant to drop off gamesheets in the mail before looping back home with a slightly altered route. It was good to get my muscles warm. I also called up the local scheduler to find out who I would be working with for the rest of the month’s assignments.
Thursday came quickly and a member of the crew picked me up from work. The field wasn’t too far away but he swung by since it was on the way. We arrived at the field to find that we had a professional referee in our crew. I knew him of course so it was a lot of fun banter for the four halves of football. He was officiating the first game in the middle and mine was the second. The four teams playing were playing round-robin group stage play-off games so were of the same level.
I chatted with the professional referee asking how he managed his training schedule especially on the day prior since I could feel a slight bit of soreness after the prior night’s run. I discovered that there was plenty of stretching, the run was also done in the morning and nothing intense.
The first game definitely looked much harder than the second game. There was plenty of man management to do and I saw a familiar-faced coach behind me on the bench. He seemed happy to see me and we had general conversation as play continued. I was sure never to turn my head and to always be facing and focused on play (multi-tasking of course).
The ball was heading out of bounds once in the first half towards me. It was almost floating since it was bouncing several times. The direction was quite obvious and it was so tempting to stop the ball. I barely had to move my hand to do so. I stuck my hand beside my body a few centimetres out and absorbed the ball momentum with my palm trying to make it seem like a happy accident that I stopped it but it ended up looking very tacky I suppose. I got a furrowed eyebrows look and turned red with embarrassment. Rookie mistake. Part 2 coming…
Second half. The ball was heading towards me out of bounds. I had planted my feet in the ground as part of my running motion and there was no way I could side-step in time to dodge it. It was about to hit me at mid-riff level. I had few options; stop it with my hands (not after the last time), duck or drop. I opted for a sideways duck. It must have looked as though I was trying to do a dodge a flying raccoon because the referee burst out laughing and I think it kept him quite happy for the next 60 seconds. Everyone thought I was trying to dodge a bullet. The simplest way I could explain it to the players somewhat surprised by my reaction was “I would owe the ref $10 if I got hit”. They laughed it off too.
My game came by soon enough and I allowed a physical start. Most of the complaints that arrived were from the fans who were family members. Mens recreational double-header.
Some of the interesting scenarios that unfolded included persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game and I mean fouls targeting one player of a reckless nature too. Two cautions came out before I called the captain and informed him that further offences would lead to the offender being cautioned on behalf of his whole team for PI. Thankfully nothing happened after.
The game was also a big test in managing restarts. As soon as a goal was netted, the opposing team started fetching the ball slower etc. and it became a mission to keep the game flowing. I was soon urging players to move quicker or put the ball in play quicker and somehow the atmosphere helped put pressure on these players to do so. In the final minute of the game, an attacker was caught offside and I had whistled. He was still in the running motion and on the team leading. I shouted “Don’t kick it!” but he decided to clear it off the field which left an easy decision for a caution and me revealing that promptly restarting the game would have resulted in the final whistle too.
Saturday afternoon had a long awaited game in the middle for the local youth team in U17 Boys.
It was overcast enough to be just about pleasant. I had a few kilometres walk to the field from the bus stop and just arrived there 30 minutes prior.
I enjoy a silent arrival and watching the ongoings of the prior match without as much as a peep. It often surprises the referee crew on duty that I suddenly appear when they turn around.
My ARs soon arrived and I delegated some tasks to them and the pre-game preparations were done in no-time. The game started physically but soon settled down and I was in for a goal-fest. 11 goals in total. It was an important game because the home team could still win the league depending on games elsewhere. A large margin would have also helped to cover the ground on goal difference based on the table so I kept that in mind. The game ended with no cautions to my pleasant surprise. An incident of note was the away team coaches beginning to yell about a handball decision not too far from them. I waved it away and it resulted in choice words. When the ensuing goal had been scored off the build-up play, I allowed them to vent a little as I approached before dismissing the main culprit. I feel my tolerance for abuse from coaches has reduced over the past year as many lose focus on the game of the players and rather focus on the referee.
I picked up the rental car late on Saturday evening and parked it at my apartment. When I woke up the next morning, to my horror, the car wouldn’t open. I was stuck and I couldn’t reach the rental company. I immediately notified my co-AR and the ref to let them know that I was stuck and began to phone people to help me out. Finally a friend responded and lent me his car. I hurried over to the nearby town and made it 35 minutes before kick-off (which is later than expected). I was sure to provide the rest of the crew with an ETA on how my problem was progressing. They were very understanding of it.
Jeez. Dealing with car trouble without even owning a car…
The game was an assessment game so just like any other game at this level, I was always looking out to help the referee with the finer details in the game that often goes unnoticed. It’s so much fun finding those opportunities to help in the background. I feel my AR prowess is far better than my skills in the middle and it’s something to think about during this off-season but I have some progress to make as a referee.
The assessor surprised me in the debrief. I was the last member of the crew he was addressing and to my absolute surprise he said
“You are very good at selling your calls”
I was very shocked to have heard that and followed up by saying
“Really?!” (I certainly wasn’t expecting it)
“Are you a salesman?”
I couldn’t help but be pleasantly surprised by the comment and question. He had referred to my quick reaction after a tight decision in informing the bench and partially appeasing them. The ball had whipped in off a cross and was cleared from the penalty area. The defenders rushed out leaving attackers stranded. The ball was passed to a player in line with the SLD. She turned and trapped the ball while the defender moved the other way. This made a large gap appear quickly giving the impression of offside to all spectators and those not paying attention. I kept my flag down waiting… She shot and it hit the back of the net. The four other strikers were just floundering. I sprinted down the touchline quickly and indicated that the four attackers were the ones offside and the “active” player was level. It quelled any outbursts because of my quick reaction reflecting on it.
Besides that, I encountered for the first time in a game, a player and referee having the same name so shouting the ref’s name may have lead to confusion so I used a mixture of both “<name>” “Ref!” in getting attention. I’ve paid very close attention to my flag signals over the past few months ensuring that I take a peek out of the corner of my eye at the very least to ensure it’s straight and level with my body. I thought it worked well on the day.
I was soon heading back to town in my friend’s car. I started to make phone calls. I had to find another way to get to my other game. Oh boy… Cascading issues when the car fell through. I managed to reach the assignor who drove me to the game since it was short notice. I was only transport impaired and not unavailable. I arrived in good time and was soon ready. As AR2, I had the sun baking the left side of my face and it was hard to focus without feeling strain looking into the sunlight on the left side when play was down at that end. It was a fairly uneventful game overall and a lively chat with the referee on the way back home.