The first day of the week was a couple of Mens recreational games with my instructor who I took my referees course with. It had been a while since I had seen him so it was definitely nice. That’s a lie. I was super excited about it. It was only the second time in four years I had seen him.
I was brought up and taught both in my youth and early years of refereeing with a simple phrase/saying.
Never forget your roots.
This has been a key idea throughout my refereeing; in crediting and acknowledging people who have helped me as well as refereeing games at the grassroots.
I also got a very nice gift to add to the top of my reading list!
I set out early from home and met up with my instructor in the neighbouring town. Luckily there were available bus routes to there. We carpooled together and picked up the third member. It was a hearty and enjoyable trip.
One of the biggest surprises of the night during the game was a breakaway. It was the first game and I was AR1. A green striker was running from halfway towards goal and I was running down the line in hot pursuit. I was sure that I would be able to out-run him (given the age difference) but I was reaching my maximum pace and I was barely staying on track. Two defenders were following him; one level and one behind. He cocked his leg back almost all the way and then kicked. The ball rocketed past the goalkeeper and struck the back of the net. It was a monster shot. It was from so far out that I thought “Surely it won’t go in”. It did. The goalkeeper was left standing still unable to do anything. The striker swung around towards my touchline and slid chest-first on the grass towards his bench before celebrating with his teammates and I couldn’t help but be stunned in awed silence after more of a trot signalling the goal. It was definitely the best goal I had seen all season. This was Sunday League Football! More like Monday.
My game came around next.
I had an interesting scenario where I saw a careless trip in the centre circle and the ball fell kindly to a teammate, I signalled advantage with my arms and verbally loudly. So much so that it surprised the offending player. I felt it was a strong signal through my body language and fruitful as the attack made it to the opposing penalty area. I could feel my legs pounding on the ground as I ran giving the signal. It felt good.
It was drizzling on and off during the game so I was unable to take sharp turns or change direction very easily since I was wearing turf shoes on wet grass. I instead had to make a wide U-turn when possession changed hands to prevent myself from slipping and wiping out instead of slowing down and turning.
There was a tackle that was likely the worst of the game and reckless. Almost scissor-like. A late slide tackle brought his opponent down in a heap and I blew the whistle long and hard immediately. I was quite close. My fingers in a reflex action moved straight for my right shorts pocket and the player knew my immediate reaction. I could see the surprise on his face. He seemed unsure why I had thought of a card immediately and I was surprised I had to explain it at all. I was a little lost for words since I was used to simply giving the decision rather than explaining what usually is a clear-cut call. After isolating him, I was able to have a chat with him instead to ensure there would be no further tackles of that nature. It worked.
I was playing on Tuesday for a change as the recreational 7-on-7 season kicked off. Half of the reactions were:
It was a scrappy kick-a-bout game. Wet turf and slick kicks off the surface meant the ball was skidding all over the place and spent more time out of bounds than in-bounds. The game is so much different when you are playing and are more cogniscant of the referees. I barely had any touches on the ball and was sure to get rid of it whenever there was someone approaching because at this level, I didn’t want to have my legs battered at the risk of affecting my refereeing.
The next morning I had a game in a nearby town. I walked to the rental car area and was soon on my way. I had a bit of time before so I was able to grab breakfast and run a few errands. It was a relaxing drive and I made a few phone calls to some out-of-town referees through the Bluetooth system (which is super convenient by the way). I got to the field and enjoyed the loud music during the walk down.
The national anthem was played following a walk-out. There was hundreds of children watching the game for some reason but it made for an interesting atmosphere and buzz. The home team scored first and they roared with approval during the celebration. It was a small reminder of how a stadium game is when the home side scores. It only fuels the hunger for higher-level games more.
It was a big game but I’m not sure the kids knew it because both teams were undefeated in the league. Play was end-to-end. I had a fair bit of work to do involving bench management. Speaking of which, I’ve been told I talk too much to the benches. Something I need to be more aware of and pay attention to.
I returned the car a few minutes late which meant I was hit by a heavy surcharge but I wasn’t as worried. I would make it up in the next game fee.
I had tried to pick-up some food on the way back but I didn’t have time. The restaurant wasn’t picking up the phone as I was driving back to the rental spot so I let it go. I was walking back home with my bag slung over my shoulder when I got a notice of an assignor looking for refs urgently. I responded to find out more about the game information. It was about a 200m detour out of my walk home. Kick-off was shortly and I was conveniently in possession of my gear. I got a phone call a few minutes later to find out I was doing the middle.
Middle. Middle? If I had to say I had a goal for the season, this would have been it. I could hardly believe it so I tried to calm my nerves during the walk thinking about how I would approach the game. I called my mentor immediately to let him know about the game. He was free so he came down to watch and as usual offered many useful tips including his presence.
Once the whole crew was collected, the game soon kicked-off. It was a higher game level than I was used to. It took a while to settle in because I felt a little lost with positioning. The mental preparation had been lacking so it took quite sometime before I knew where I needed to get to without getting in trouble or in the way. I collided with two players twice away from the ball during the game. It hung in my mind and they were mild impacts. I immediately apologised but the players were focused on the game so it was long forgotten. The second collision was different. A minute or two later, I was deep in the west half of the field when a home team player called out to me and held up a referee badge. To my embarrassment when I looked down, my badge had come off. I jogged over to take up my position for a goal kick and tried to make it look like a casual pass by. Funnily enough, nobody noticed it or the collisions. Phew…
The game didn’t have major incidents but there was plenty of work to be done and I was putting a shift in. I was surprised I had the energy to push to 11km. At one point in the game, I was deep in one of the corners away from the AR. The ball had gone out-of-bounds and I had signalled the restart. I couldn’t help but notice a TV camera a few metres away off the touchline pointing straight at me. Do I look straight into it? Hard not to. I looked away on purpose as I moved backwards to get some distance in between. Didn’t want the wrong impression to come across!
On an attacking play, an attacker was knocked to the floor as part of the collision. The defender’s foot was in between the attacker’s legs. Some tension and back-and-forth led to mild escalation with shoulder contact. I had seen the build-up but was hoping they would be respectful enough to let it go and continue playing given that it had little effect on the game. My AR started calling for me as there was an exchange and was about to get physical. I called both players aside and verbally rebuked electing to settle for that without cautions that was later discussed at length.
Thankfully nothing major happened but there was a debrief to follow from my mentor and AR (who was a senior referee) about things to consider improving on.
After the game when I got home, to my anguish, I realise I lost my house keys. I back-tracked to many spots but couldn’t find it. I must have lost it somewhere while travelling. Unnecessary stress. The day was far from over though so it was a problem for later. Tonight was my Futsal clinic.
I was missing a lot of equipment so I was really running things on the fly. Prolonged exposure to Futsal and experience has helped me maintain firm knowledge in the area. I grabbed a few new whistles and covered a crash course on the rules of the game as well as general expectations and procedures. We did some game scheduling and I told as many jokes as I could to keep the meeting lively.
We had a practical session where I attempted to give everyone a development opportunity including experienced referees helping me to instruct younger refs. In the meantime I tried to figure out my own problem of the day!
I got back home assessing my options. I just couldn’t get into my room so I bunked on the couch. Thank goodness that my ref bag is pretty much a survival bag. I changed into a fresh new ref kit and managed to get some sleep.
I awoke the next morning to grab breakfast with my mentor. Obtained a copy of the keys and arrived late to class. Just before I walked in, my assessment report arrived. Oh my… How would this go? Third and final of the season. I sat down in class just as the report loaded and there was really one way to tell how the assessment went at a glance. The score. I was hopeful… Screen loaded. I zoom in with a finger swipe. I looked at the mark. I could hardly believe it. It was high! Surprisingly so. I think I fell flat on the table, while sitting on the chair, in relief.
I read the report and it was quite positive. Success. I had achieved what I wanted to in the game and how I wanted to modify my refereeing style over the season. It was a step in the right direction.
The weather was all right for Saturday. I was working with an out-of-town crew locally and they were going to swing by to get me. Traffic issues came up for them and I heard about it ahead of time. I was still at home when this was happening so I left for my 5 minute walk to the field prepared that I needed to get everything ready with pre-game preparation.
Almost felt like being a referee liaison in previous roles I had.
Everything went smoothly and the referees soon arrived with an agreed delayed KO. Nothing really of note happened as far as memory serves me but I did chat with the referee after the game about Futsal since we had both been involved for the last few years.
I had a double-header Mens competitive shift on Sunday.
I left home to catch the bus and meet one of the crew members. We discussed each other’s seasons and what-nots during the trip which was nice. It gives more context to what happens behind each face I meet on the field and I feel makes teamwork all the more stronger.
I was in the middle for the first game. We arrived early so had plenty of time to do our own individual warm-up routines and ensure players and team officials would meet expectations. This was the last game of the season so points were pivotal for the home team in the playoffs however the away team had already been eliminated.
The game kicked-off and I had some pleasant jogging to do for the first quarter of an hour. There were no foul decisions until 19:46. I was surprised. I had almost no involvement in the game at the start other than out-of-bounds decisions and was beginning to curiously look at my watch. I kept a mental note during play to look at my watch when the first foul happened. Surely enough, it did. A defender was in possession of the ball. As an attacker put pressure, he pulled his opponent back. The defender tried to kick the ball away and accidentally kicked the attacker’s shinpad resulting in a loud thwack. There was a big appeal and an easy foul call but I decided to punish the first “less-noticeable” foul. That brought a bit of heat on the game temperature but it soon calmed.
The next memorable incident was a strong, clean tackle made against a home team player in the away team’s crowded penalty area. It resulted in a large appeal but I waved it away. The player’s teammates were upset but the player approached me calmly a few minutes later during a stoppage to politely ask. I explained what I had seen and he accepted it gracefully.
It was a good game all-in-all and a positive end to doing middles this season. After all, it was my last.
Only 500m away was the neighbouring football pitch and part 2 of the night. We (my carpool buddy and I) arrived at the field to meet the other member of our crew. It was a very important game because another two games were being played concurrently at other fields across the city. There were three contenders for the title to be decided over the next 90 minutes and we had one of them. The other team was looking for points to gain a higher play-off berth.
This was a tough game for offsides. The most notable was when I had two attackers near the halfway line. One offside, one not. The ball was played over and it was an obvious goal-scoring opportunity with a lot of space. The player that was in an offside position seemed to be ahead. I had to keep up. Just in case… The other player now appeared to be ahead to take the ball. I was still following. Suddenly the offside attacker gained possession. I raised the flag. He scored. The referee had already looked at me earlier on the initial kick. I started yelling for the referee. He saw me a few seconds later and the goal was overruled. Now came the difficult part; dealing with the shock and upset.
I ran down the touchline to resume position and I quickly explained to the bench how I had to wait to see if the onside attacker would have gained possession. They understood it quickly and didn’t argue to my, somewhat, surprise. In an unfortunate sequence of events, offside decisions led to three goals being overruled for the same team but it was well handled.
A decision on the far side for a foul decision resulted in a lot of uproar from the offending team. An attacker on the other side of the field started yelling about it. The referee turned and I immediately knew he heard something that crossed the line. He looked around to identify the offender. I gained his attention from far and held up four fingers to indicate it was #4. The information was almost effortlessly communicated because he went straight over and showed the caution. He was later very happy I was able to relay it over to him.
The home team won but we had no clue if they had won the league. We didn’t know who was at the other field. On the ride home, I found out that they did win! What an end to the week.