I met with the Youth Premier League assignor earlier in the week for the previous month’s payment. We had a chat about the league, how it had come together, who was running it and other details. Refereeing without a league’s context can leave one stranded or without confidence on the field when it comes to things happening. After all, how can you be confident about a specific league rule if you aren’t aware of how things are normally run and the general atmosphere? It turns out the organisation running the league also had their own teams entered into it. Good to keep in mind.
I was offered games on the Saturday end of week but I declined. I had other commitments but more importantly, Sunday was allocated as match day for the Under 18 Boys Cup semifinal. Saturday games are draining and I wouldn’t have enough rest time ahead of the next day’s game.
I had a road-trip to the border on Monday to renew my visa. It was an early morning start. Very early because the sun wasn’t even up yet but it was when I got to the car meeting point.
As the week progressed, I received two invitations. One to the local Womens league and another to a Super Cup happening locally but mainly with referees coming abroad. It was exciting to receive both piece of news.
Saturday came along and I was watching a local tennis tournament.
It was odd to see such reserved and controlled passion. Football is just a whole other game. A better game in my opinion 😉
I also tried my hand at golf a few days after. Apparently I didn’t do so bad for my first time but I did wear out the skin on my hand. Makes sense why they wear golf gloves now.
Last but not least, the U18 Boys Cup Semifinal match arrived. For the first time, I had family watching me officiate. Not that it changes things but it changed my experience.
The weather was partly cloudy so it was still easy to work up a sweat. The lines on the pitch were well marked out but not entirely visible from afar.
I nabbed a few stray training cones from the nearby field and used it to mark out the area I was using to warm up. I was warming up before both the teams had even started since the pre-match duties would soon ensue.
The game kicked off and settled in fairly quickly. It was a tiring game with the Middle Eastern heat beating down. I was sweating buckets as usual.
The decisive moment of the game came on a bouncing ball towards the goalkeeper. He came rushing forward to meet it because an attacker was in hot pursuit in the other direction. As the goalkeeper came forward, his eyes glanced forward in hesitation at the onrushing attacker and had a small stumble (almost a wobble). He had misjudged the position. The ball was about to sail past him.
He jumped in the air to try to beat it away. The attacker jumped to challenge for it as well. Both missed and bounced off each other. The goalkeeper reacted quickly to scramble back. I started sprinting across the penalty area in preparation for a goal line decision but the ball made it into the back of the net. The goalkeeper dove to keep it out but ended deep inside the net on his back with his head on the backbone of the goal.
I indicated a goal as I watched the home team celebrate. The goalkeeper was still in the back of the net and not moving. I assumed he was frustrated that he couldn’t keep the ball out. After a few more seconds, I decided to lift the urgency and check if he had got injured in the scuffle. I jogged in quickly.
Are you ok?
He mumbled something back with his eyes somewhat open but it didn’t seem like anything serious had happened. He got out of the net eventually and I realised he was meekly protesting the jump he had with the attacker.
I’ve noticed that as the competition level has risen, players expect each other to commit their bodies to challenges that an amateur player may think twice about as they consider their working condition the next day. Teammates berate each other for not 100% committing to a tackle or possible collision that could win them the ball. This was something perhaps the goalkeeper was guilty of.
At the end of the game, the away team was chasing the score by a goal down and fitness issues started to creep up as players started going down with cramps. The first case had an extended stoppage. The player evidently was dealing with it for the first time and wasn’t sure what to do. Several minutes later, he was eventually taken behind the goal line to be attended to and resulted in an immediate substitution. I was rather frustrated that I wasn’t in charge of the situation and deal with it in a timely manner.
Players from both teams started going down. When the home team defenders started needing to stretch, their teammates encouraged them to get up so that the game could proceed and end without any further added time.
Five was the number on the virtual board.
An away team midfielder was cautioned for a reckless tackle mid-way through the game. An offence in stoppage time had him in dangerous waters. As he backed away from the offence, I had a quiet word with him. He knew he was on thin ice and there were no further issues after that.
The final whistle was met with both anguish and celebration. It was a hard fought game from both sides. The closing stages had several penalty area scrambles involving almost all 22 players on the pitch. Just like a crowded Futsal pitch with multiple shots and ricochets and saves being made. Getting the best position was difficult as I had to constantly move but nothing untoward happened.
I stretched after the game as I had felt minor spasms in the closing stages of the game. It was a physical game and physically challenging for everyone involved given the weather conditions.