To my own surprise I was assigned as AR1 to one more final play-off football game. A real final in which the winner would earn promotion to a higher U16 league. An appointment that doesn’t happen too often.
For the last four weeks, we worked as trio consisting of two 50+ and one 65+ ref. The first two had their turn as CR so the senior (in age) gets the final. Logical. Or?
Well, the oldest ref is acting in a lower ref league than his two assistants and didn’t show much power during his AR roles so far. Quitting warming-ups and not supporting the CR a lot during the two previous games. I was getting a little worried and took a daring step: I consulted the FA. They confirmed he got the CR role as part of being in rotation and it also was based on his performance during the past season. Nothing they could do about it.
I decided to behave like a pro and colleague, and not judge him prematurely just on his AR roles so far. He might have been hiding so far and just perform like a FIFA ref in this final.
He and his wife arrived late. They decided to take the bus for the last 35 km to do some sightseeing. My eyes went big but I refrained from any comments. Focus on the game. Lots of things went wrong from the start. One goal net had a whole in the back. The score board didn’t work properly and changed to 9:9 during first half. I had to shut it down at the start of the second half. But that was not the main thing. The CR just performed lousy. Let fouls go unpunished, had a terrible pace and followed most of the action on distance. No eye-contact with AR’s and basically ran the show on his own. And no fair self-reflection afterwards.
And who was receiving the scorn? Right, this AR1 walking the line with two sets of angry team coaches and bleachers full of parents. They got angrier during 2nd half when some heavy fouls were not even noted or just waved off. Both AR’s were losing it and lost concentration, just praying a finishing goal would end this 80 mins of torture. To our relief, the winning goal was scored 10 mins before regular time and we walked off the pitch as colleagues. Scorned by supporters from losing side, not being thanked by the losing coaches or players. And I even found a tweet later commenting our ‘lousy trio performance’ which included the Dutch FA.
Well, I don’t feel guilty, but it took me two days and a blog to get rid of the bad aftertaste. I had imagined this Season Finale totally different.
I guess my assistant ref didn’t have the guts to tell me in person. He managed to break my AR flag! I got it back in pieces from their coach and I wanted to ask him some questions. How did he signal me after he finished my flag and how did he snap it in the first place? I blamed his lousy team’s performance (4-0 behind in 20 mins) and droppped the case.
There simply was no time to reconstruct the story. I just accepted the 3 pieces and decided to withdraw in my locker room. But on opening the door, I was blown away by an extreme odor of sweaty feet. The locker room was big enough to host a football squad but there were only two guys using it. My apparent colleague wasn’t present so I couldn’t ask him to remove his socks and shoes. The only option was to keep the door open while taking my 10 minute break.
The game ended in 5-0 and I now also got my other flag back. More break-downs were about to happen though: the digital game admin system this time, and I decided to finish it at home after having received sign-offs from both coaches. That proved to be another hurdle as the Dutch FA changed the remote digital access (without telling us). I had to spend more time to find ‘rescue game docs’, fill them in, send them off by email. To be called by the FA on Monday why I didn’t fill in the digital paperwork. I told them honestly I had a severe ‘break-down-day’.
In hindsight, I should have started much earlier. I reached my career ceiling since I’ve hit the 50 year age bracket. And now it’s too late. Too late for a serious career at least, but still plenty of time to have fun doing it! On grass, on sand and indoors.
I still remember a slow Saturday afternoon, some 20 years back, when I watched a local football match go wrong because the referee just stood there in the middle, mainly signalling in and out-balls and copying his assistants’ calls for off-side. That should be done better, I thought, but was too busy with my career. Years later, when we moved to another town, I decided to pick up my fav sport and first became U12 coach.
Two years later I decided to go for the Dutch ref badge and start reffing on weekends instead. Another switch was made last year after having had several tricky games with adults. I’m now working mainly U18 and U16 games. Mostly as stand-alone ref, but play-offs happen with 3 neutral refs, thank goodness. I envy the US refs who always work with a ref trio. Something I did for 4 half seasons while living in New Jersey.
This passed season 2013/14 produced one major game incident that shook my ref constitution. A collective fight out of the blue between the teams resulted in a temporarily suspended game. Reports written from various parties produced a heavy penalty on which both teams appealed and the appeal court sentenced a lower penalty because not all reports could be proven.
I’m still enthusiastic and driven to give my best and report back when things are not according to the rules of the game.