I had a relatively easy game last Saturday, reffing two teams in the Dutch U15 national pro youth league. Interesting to know: the home team are the only amateur club playing in this competition. The guests from the north were so smart to mumble during meet&greet that this might be changed soon and only professional clubs would be allowed to play from next year. Big frowns all around me.
The game itself was ‘do or die’ for the guest team. Losing this game would bring them closer to relegation and their opponents were just ranked above them, hence a true 6 points game. A game packed with scouts all around the pitch. Several of the home team players were offered contracts to play for pro-teams from next season, I was told. At the start of the game, I told both captains I would keep a close eye on holding and pushing, but would prefer to play advantage in order to keep the game rolling.
As a result, I was shouting ‘play on’ almost every 5 minutes of the game, whenever possible, and tried to keep the number of free kicks to a minimum. No comments or complaints from any player as they knew when a foul was committed, hearing me shout ‘play on’. After several verbal warnings for holding, I had to eventually issue two yellow cards for it, one to each team. Quite a logical outcome of having been tolerant, but with a clear limit.
Big was my surprise, though, when I returned to the admin area to register the subs, yellow cards and 0-0 score. The away couch told me he didn’t like my strict refereeing with the many free kicks. My mouth dropped. Was he talking about another game perhaps? Nope, my game. I told him I had never in my career played on advantage so often. And I didn’t share his game experience at all. “Well, we are all allowed to have our opinions, can’t we ref?” he ended the short conversation. I left it there, realizing he must have been very disappointed to have made the 2x2hr drive for a useless 0-0 draw. Somebody had to be blamed. I happened to be me. As usual.