At half-time, I proceeded back to have a drink after the teams stepped off the field. I went to check on the away team attacker who was sitting on a bench in the shade holding his nose. His team and coach had gone off to the corner flag to have a tactical discussion.
I asked him how he was. He seemed out of his element but was definitely annoyed. I asked him a few questions and he appeared confused. It looked like he may have got a concussion and I told him to make sure he had it checked out. In hindsight, I should have let his coach know as well since he may not have remembered. He didn’t even remember how the injury happened nor the details of the incident.
This was worrying and it worried him when I mentioned there was a possibility of a concussion. I calmed him down and told him he just needed to take rest but needed it checked out by a doctor ultimately.
Mid-way through the second half, the away team defender was in possession of the ball at the corner of his penalty area. A home team attacker approached only a few yards away. The defender kicked the ball and it struck the attacker’s arm which was maybe 15 degrees away from his body. I instinctively blew the whistle to indicate the defensive free kick. The attacker was upset and reacted by saying “He kicked it to my hand ref!”
Play was restarted quickly by the defender. I knew I had got it wrong but there was nothing I could do now. I was furious with myself as I ran across the pitch to get around the centre circle before play got to the other half. I cleared my mind again by the time I got to the halfway line and kept a mental note to be more vigilant and to apologise to the attacker. There was no threat to goal at the time but referees strive for perfection in game management and calls. I was certainly not pleased with my call however.
Late in the second half, #45 for the away team tripped an opponent while in his attacking half. His foot caught a defending player trying to turn upfield and with space ahead. The contact happened when the defending player’s foot was high so it caused a simple careless trip and I blew the whistle. There wasn’t much threat of a promising attack because of the sheer distance and amount of defenders. The reaction from the defenders’ teammates, however, was different.
A nearby teammate approached to verbally confront the attacker. Another teammate was approaching as well but I picked up the pace and arrived in time to separate the initial two. They seemed to feel that it was a cynical tackle as they continued to argue as they backed away. I decided it was time for intervention and I called the first defending team teammate. After several blasts of the whistle over their arguing, he realised he needed to come over to me to have a chat. I quickly warned him and he parted after I was satisfied that he had calmed down. This was the most confrontational part of the game which I can say, at least, that I was pleased with the outcome.
In the 30th minute of the second half, the score had arrived to 2-1 for the away team. The home team had been pressing for an equalising goal for the majority of the game and a penalty area scramble resulted in a tap-in goal. 2-2! It almost seemed like destiny and the home team was jubilant. The only problem was that the home team substitutes bench cleared and ran onto the field to meet their teammates in the centre circle to celebrate. As soon as I saw this, I began to blow the whistle with a few short blasts, indicating they were to leave the field and sporting an annoying look to show that I didn’t approve. They quickly cleared. It was hard not to be empathetic about the scenario but the reaction was excessive. This moment reminds me of how Howard Webb ushered David Luiz away from his opponent in the World Cup Round of 16 against Chile.
My ARs worked well. At this level, it was mainly motivation that was needed and that their work was appreciated by the referee for them to continue.
I wasn’t prepared to accept offside decisions from them but AR1 worked well enough that I was able to use his help on one occasion where I suspected an attacker was ahead of the SLD. AR1 also brought a misplaced ball on an away team goal kick to my attention during extra time. When the player tried to quickly take the goal kick, he raised the flag and called my attention. I put two and two together when I realised that was the likely issue and indicated a re-take was necessary.
AR2 signalled the ball over the touchline whenever he could. He was stationed on the far side touchline with no fans or spectators and with sunlight in his face. I gave him a thumbs-up on two separate occasions and he looked very pleased after we made eye contact. It looked as though I had made his day!
There was a short five minute break before the teams returned to the pitch. I had a water break as well. There was plenty of running in the match by that point. There was another coin toss that proceeded exactly as before. Only this time, the away team captain knew he had to pick a side and he chose the opposite side. They switched sides but not before I reminded them that there would be no break between the halves of extra time; it would be an immediate switch-over. No complaints.
Not many noteworthy decisions in the two periods of extra time other than the fact that the home team scored in the 9th minute of the first period and received a reply in the added minute of ET first half. Two away team goals arrived early in the second half to bring the match to 5-3 them.
There was one tactical foul and caution (breaking a promising attack) shown to one of the players on the home team for a foul on an away team attacker. Ironically, both were target players. The away team attacker received a pass before the halfway line and was turning to begin a counter-attack when he was carelessly tripped. A simple isolation and caution. There was no yell or demand for it but I didn’t really want it to get to that stage and there was no complaint for showing the caution either. The sidelines were quiet for most of the game; they weren’t used to having a neutral referee to yell at I think!
The final whistle sounded with celebration from the away team. It was a very sportsmanlike ending to the game. Both teams cheered for each other. The thanks however, that came my way, was heartfelt. Both coaches came over to thank me and very grateful saying that either of them would have had to referee the game if I hadn’t been there. The players also appreciated having a referee and it was easy to see their thanks wasn’t just post-game mechanics. Each came with an almost-beaming smile.
The home team coach’s team talk was quite audible to everyone on the field and he noted to his players that he was embarrassed at their reaction to the game-equalising goal but pleased they had withstood almost 60 minutes of football without a dedicated goalkeeper. The substitutes came to me soon after and apologised.
The home team coach offered to take me a part of the way home as it was on the way. I accepted and we caught up on things since it had been quite a while. We had a long chat since we got stuck in traffic on the way back.
“How’s your refereeing going? You’re obviously a competent ref.”
This was the biggest compliment I could have received. There would be no greater pleasure than to receive recognition at the home field that I started at. This refereeing was pro bono because I owed my officiating career to them.
The discussion of the send-off eventually came up. It was on my mind for most of the conversation and with no refereeing friends around for discussion, it makes it all the more difficult to improve, reflect and discuss. He, at first, said he didn’t agree with the decision. I then explained my perception of the nature and speed of the contact made by the goalkeeper. We both agreed there was no “intent” but I went on to explain that although I was empathetic to it, it wasn’t a forgiving consideration in the decision-making process. He ultimately said he would have been fine with a caution or send-off. We then discussed how the collision would have, perhaps, only been a caution in a professional league like the English Premier League where physicality is more accepted by the players and fans alike.
During the drive, we called the PE teacher and relayed the highlights of the game. The home team coach joked,
“He made a shocking call”
The volume on the phone was loud enough for me to hear the reply:
“I’m sure it was right”
I burst out laughing. I was glad to hear I got the support. It was a short metro ride home from the drop-off point and I carefully thought about my decisions during the game.
Meanwhile once I had got home, my brother (who played on the school team in a different age group) was getting text messages from players complimenting my officiating for the game. All good!
9.12 km coverage for the evening and I felt much better after the game. The wear and tear was far less significant than the week prior. I guess this is getting back in the routine of football refereeing!
The match was moderately challenging but whether it was a combination of the impression I had made or my age (I had a half-beard), I had some sort of authority advantage in which the players followed my decisions with little complaint. The players in the game ranged in height with some much shorter than me and some much taller. I was almost average.
Thinking back on my reasoning for the send-off, I’ve been wondering why my mind jumped to the DOGSO considerations first considering that the most serious offence prevails. Having been only my fourth send-off for serious foul play (all happening in the space of the last twelve months), getting accustomed to it has been a challenge.
Thinking back to the second half equalising goal celebrations, a caution should have been shown to at least one of the substitutes or a strong verbal warning after they had left. I certainly communicated my expectations on the field when it happened but thought it may have required something more.
I had used full length compression socks on the day along with my football flats. I found that even though running felt better, my feet had far less traction because it felt bundled up in the layers of socks! I’ll have to search for compression socks sleeves that only cover the shin which wouldn’t affect traction. Foot care has been far more easier though.
A fantastic start to 2015 and it would be hard to beat this experience in the near future but I’m looking forward to what comes. I’m not going to forget this game for a long time.