I was offered games in the Youth Premier League for the end of the week. This time in the U18 Boys division and it was for a triple-header! I was immediately wary. I knew I couldn’t handle three games in the middle in this weather. I knew that I would be able to manage to do it but I didn’t want to do that. I would be fatigued and my performance would be affected by it. I expect more. I value my performance too much to accept the extra game so I let the assignor know. Two games it was.
I set a fitness goal to cover 100km in the month of March. I had slacked off for the better part of the month. In fairness I had forgotten about it but I was still determined to make up the numbers. Saturdays do a great job because I typically cover just short of 14km. 15 days to cover around 80km. Hmmm…
Meanwhile it rained mid-way through the week. Not something that happens all that often in the desert.
Saturday was a scorcher. To make matters worse, I was on the turf field which absorbed and radiated all the heat like a heat mat. Most of the challenging games were assigned there so I couldn’t complain much otherwise since I was getting the difficult appointments.
I arrived at the field for a later-than-usual start. I’m not sure why they weren’t at the normal time. Perhaps it would have been cooler then. There was a match going on on the grass field that had quite a hype. The coaches, players and parents were making a lot of noise. There was obviously something at stake if at least only pride. The referee for the game was quite young so I sympathised with him since I knew there wasn’t much training in the area on skills needed to deal with a difficult game. I sat in the back of the stands getting changed, watching and he was doing quite well dealing with a fast-paced and quick-tempered game. I kept it in mind to let the assignor know. A promising young talent. We have to do our best to push each other.
The two games I had went very well.
In the second game, a right-wing midfielder was upset by a few challenges that he believed were unfair and careless. They weren’t from the bar I set and what the rest of the players had adjusted to. I could sense him slightly on edge. The ball was played down the touchline along the right wing. He challenged for the ball in the air and his opponent carelessly jumped it. He had possession of the ball on the right wing just outside the penalty area moving towards goal. He was charged on a promising attack and fell down. The ball rolled to a teammate who had the entire penalty area ahead of him and no defender in sight.
Advantage. Play on!
The midfielder got up off the ground and confronted his opponent with a push. I blew the whistle quickly to stop play before it escalated to violent conduct and rushed in. The players separated but still annoyed at each other. I moved closer to the touchline. There were no nearby spectators or team officials there and I beckoned for both players to approach.
The midfielder was still fuming. As they arrived, he began to talk and argue in a heated manner. First things first. I had to deal with the foul that occurred. I cut him off and proceeded calmly.
(to the defender)
First off. That was a foul.
(to the attacker)
Your teammate had it who was through on goal. I applied advantage but now I’ve had to pull it back. Ask your teammate.
I let both of the players know what their cautions were for and the midfielder’s frustration diffused after that incident. This happened towards the end of the game but I knew it was an important moment and that my body language meant everything throughout its management. No complaints after.
Advantage is always a risk. You have to gauge whether the opportunity can and will reach somewhere beneficial to the offended team. The 3-5 seconds do help in gauging that because there is still the ability to pull it back. However, the ball can be lost just after. That’s the risk. The free kick could have been more useful. Advantage is especially a risk when players are already annoyed and it’s a threat to match control.
Much like this irate midfielder, I have encountered several players that try to adamantly steer the conversation when called for a discussion. Sometimes they need to unleash their frustration but it’s important that they don’t appear as though they are in charge of the conversation when they arrive. This gives the wrong impression to everyone watching and sends the wrong message to what transpired and the referee’s management of the game.
The game ended and both teams were pleased with the officiating decisions. Job done. The away team coach came by at the end of the game to thank me. To my surprise, I found out he was the league president/founder.
I felt my confidence was showing stronger on the field. A little closer to that goal of elite confidence.
Out of all the games I’ve had, I have never felt more on top of ball out of play decisions. I felt I caught every touch and deflection. Mainly because I reacted so quickly to the last ricochet of the ball that everybody was satisfied with the call or at least the confidence of my calls. A good omen.
At the end of the two games, I saw the assignor hanging around the fields to make sure that everything was running smoothly. I knew I was on my last legs and couldn’t handle the weather any longer. I let him know that I was available for any future night games but for now, morning games would mean I’m toast. I had gotten a rash on my hand just being out in the sun that long! It wasn’t an issue of my body coping with the heat but rather the UV rays cooking me to a crisp.