Two early week high school cup matches were on the schedule.
U12 Boys Cup Quarterfinal
My pre-game travel arrangements were rather different this time. I was travelling in the away team bus. Again, I cannot stress the lack of referees meaning that both teams didn’t care. Had the field not been far and I been able to travel alone, I would definitely have picked that option but instead I got a first-hand experience of youth away team travel.
Before getting on the bus though and waiting for school to let out, I watched the younger school students playing European handball on the school court. The court was almost perfect for Futsal. My eyes gleamed at the prospect of introducing the sport and gave a short pitch to the Physical Education teachers on why they should introduce it.
We arrived at the pitch early. It was a turf field. The field felt like a large expanse of space to cover. Maybe it was the colour or surrounds. In reality, I’m sure it wasn’t very large at all.
I did a walk-around and pushed all the smaller nets away from the touchline. That alone was almost a warm-up but I did my usual routine of jogging along the halfway line right after.
The home team arrived finally; this was a neutral venue.
I called both coaches to a central spot to discuss the game details. Both agreed to 25 minute periods (refraining from using the word ‘halves’ this time from direction of Third Blind Mouse). I asked how they wanted to proceed for a tied game after.
Cue the gamesmanship.
The home team coach “I’m in a hurry and have to get somewhere after. Let’s go straight to penalty kicks.”
The away team coach “No, we want to play extra time”
Home teach coach: “We’ll have to forfeit the game then”
Away team coach: “That’s ok with me”
Both of them kind of glowered at each other for a couple of seconds. The home team coach shook his head, turned and returned to his team. I had absolutely no interest in this. I wasn’t there to be an arbiter for this too… Things would be decided at the end of the match if it was tied at that point.
The home team coach began to pick on my decisions in the second half with throw-ins and fouls. I was a little surprised how one-sided he was being when I knew I had made earlier mistakes that was in his favour. In hindsight, I was rather annoyed that I hadn’t quelled his niggly complaints.
The only incident worth noting was when a home team midfielder felt that he was fouled. Nothing doing. In anger, he chased the away team attacker with the ball on the wing and cynically tackled him without looking at the ball. It was only careless. I knew I had to take action however. I was only 5 -7 yards away from the incident and I quickly got to the spot. To my surprise, the attacker simply got up, shook it off and walked away not knowing the prelude of the tackle. It made it easier to deal with the scenario. I called the player aside and made it clear that this wouldn’t be accepted.
No score at the end of full time. We were going for one period of 10 minutes and playing golden goal. Both of the coaches seemed to be having a cold war with each other. It wasn’t affecting the players or me so I proceeded as normal.
Another eventful back-and-forth 10 minutes but no score. I was somewhat relieved. Golden goal not only puts pressure on players but on me too. If there was a contentious decision leading up to a winner, I was surely going to be the victim of blame. I’m going to term this as post-ET relief. KFPM and a nervy ending. It was back-and-forth as both teams went into the lead at certain points but lost them. In sudden death, the away team was able to close the decisive penalty kick.
U18 Boys Cup Quarterfinal
I was really looking forward to this game. Higher age group means bigger challenge.
The game was set for a 3:50pm kick-off and I had arrived well before. I went about my usual pre-game duties and the away team arrived at 3:25pm. Since they had travelled they went to the dressing rooms for some relief and came back out a minute later. The coach proceeded to give them a team talk until a few minutes before kick-off.
I beckoned to signal that we’d be starting soon and the coach looked at me saying “We haven’t even warmed up”. I looked back thinking “Well whose fault is that…”
“We only just got here ref” “You were here 20 minutes ago.”
Are you being paid by the hour?
Errr… I’m not being paid at all.
He didn’t have a reply to that. We agreed to two minutes.
The game kicked off soon enough and even the away team captain was complaining about the lack of time during the coin toss. I told him we had to get on with it and get the game started.
I think some coaches misread when referees want to get a game started on time. It’s not because I want to get home quickly. It’s because we have a responsibility to facilitate the game. When people make plans when they have a football match, they do it assuming that 90 minutes of game time would be played and so can fairly accurately plan their calendars after. As timekeepers of the game, it’s an important responsibility to kick-off on time. Some players and teams treat it as a meeting time as opposed to when the whistle should be blown. The best example is for FIFA referees watching the match commissioner hold their hand up and then give a signal to indicate that the media is ready for kick-off to happen. Practice from the bottom so you are ready at the top.
I let them play slightly physical at the get-go to see where they liked their boundaries. Ordinarily one of the coaches officiate the game so I wasn’t sure what sort of threshold they had been honing the players to get used to. There weren’t many complaints as I set my bar. Second minute in and the first foul of the game. It also happened to be reckless but I made it clear it was not to be tolerated.
The vast majority of play during the game was in midfield so I always had to pick my patrol path wisely so as not to get in the way.
Two players were challenging for the ball in the centre circle when an away team centre-back yelled “REFE-REE!”. I was close to play with an unobstructed view. Neither of the players complained to what I interpreted as a fair challenge so I responded “I’m coming back for you!” for the manner he had said it in.
The ball was played around a bit and finally resulted in an offside decision against the home team right beside the centre-back. I blew the whistle and ran near where the ball was being placed for the IDFK. The defender got on one knee to start tying his shoelaces. I indicated to the kicker nearby that he was to wait for the whistle. Once the defender had finished tying both of his shoes and stood up, I cautioned him for showing dissent and showed the yellow card. There was some delay in showing this card as I waited for him to get back onto his feet which may have led to the impression that I had held the restart to let him tie his shoelaces. Timing is everything.
Two minutes before the end of the first half, I indicated a minute to be added for time lost. I normally indicate it a minute or so before the end because the opportunity may not arise. Stoppages sometimes don’t arrive all that often. Anyways, as it happened, the home team scored in the added minute causing a spark of outrage by the away team.
“Ref! The minute finished two minutes ago!”
“I know because I announced it early so you know how long it would be.”
Once the whistle had blown, I explained to the player that came to me and showed the time on my watch. They replied feebly. Before the second half kick-off, they understood what had happened. The pains of working without a fourth official.
The goals in the game came very quickly as the home team went up to 3-0. The frustration of the away team became apparent because mid-way through the second half, they started to lose their cool. Reckless tackles and blatant deliberate handling were the next two cautions. A player on a second caution came in with a reckless trip only minutes later. He clearly seemed to want to leave the game. I quickly stepped in and made it clear it was not going to be accepted. It worked because he calmed down and there wasn’t any further incident.
It was a great physical game. I set the “higher” threshold. The real challenge here is keeping match control because missing a legitimate foul or letting it escalate beyond are the two key areas. All-in-all enjoyable and I was looking forward to more in the future.
I had a fall somewhere in mid-week landing on my wrist which meant that my right wrist was useless. Nothing broken but it felt something like a sprain.
Now the reason I like the grass on the Middle East pitches better is because it’s fairly consistent and no areas of pure mud. The grass is also fairly short so it doesn’t affect the ball as much when it rolls.
I was a little worried for this game because my wrist felt off. I didn’t have much time to let the scheduler know (since I had hoped to have recovered by then) so I decided to make do. All-in-all, it didn’t affect my performance other than stiff hand signals. Nothing noteworthy on this game.