Another young and ambitious ref to mentor last weekend. And this time a slightly difficult match. Mostly due to the home coach criticizing the ref all the time. I was positioned behind his dug-out, so registered everything in detail. Continue reading “Critizing the referee doesn’t help, especially with an FA rep reporting – Rodric Leerling”
“When you think you did a terrific job, there are always criticizers” – Rodric Leerling
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.
“Changes in football: great to see more female refs” -Rodric Leerling
It was a real pleasure to watch the 16 year young girl ref, acting with confidence this weekend. A promising performance at a boys U17 game where the rookie, long-haired, slim girl controlled the game from start to finish.
The boys looked surprised at first but once she started running and recognizing their fouls, they showed respect and behaved. With a slighr hick-up early 2nd half when a player was tackled and reacted lashed back. Suddenly two players were pushing their heads against each other and the ref clearly was holding back where shw should intervened and showb yellow. it didn’t blow over and at the free kick the ball was replaced by the fouled player. again a yellow card would be appropriate. I couldn’t resist and hit my chest to signal the neeed for cards. She picked it up and recovered quickly by taking xontrol again.
In our evaluation, we talked about the incidents and what went through her mind. It happened to me often and more than once realized I just didn’t have the guts to penalize more than one player. Told her that frankly to comfort her. It’s all very human.
“No support needed” – Rodric Leerling
So far, I only had teenage refs to accompany as part of my ref coaching course. This weekend, the FA asked me to accompany someone just slightly older than me.
First question that came up, of course, was why someone at this age would still consider becoming a licensed ref? The Dutch FA is desperate for more refs to handle adult games, so he will be warmly welcomed. But at his age a ref career is limited to lower adult games.
With approximately twenty years of club refereeing and team training under his belt, he simply wanted to add a degree to his football palmares. In fact, he demonstrated being able to lead a game quite easily, spotting most fouls, and dealing with players quite easily. But very often at a distance and not at full speed. Being a club ref, there are less formalities and no decorum to take heed of. Entering the pitch on your own, dropping the flags on the centre spot and then wait for the teams to arrive is a no-no for FA refs. Nobody really cared, and hardly anyone was watching.
Starting a game without basic warming-up is another ‘faux-pas’. You simply can’t afford running a 90 minutes game without a good physical preparation, certainly at our age. And this was only a game in the 2nd league for reserve teams. After the match, we discussed these apparent new game elements to notice next time and he acknowledged it.
It will be a simple report this time. He will do well as new Dutch FA ref but has to work on his physics to be able keep pace with higher level games. And he needs to bring some decorum to the games. The spectators will appreciate this.
“Being a mentor, also for hesitant referees” – Rodric Leerling
He showed all signs of a referee not eager to enter the arena. I had never seen that before but it was understandable considering his previous games. His slight form of autism made him react different on situations than most of us refs would.
He was on track of getting used to sudden changes in a game, and rules that are sometime in need of a flexible interpretation. But the previous U17 game stopped in its tracks even before the first whistle. The players – in his view – were simply way older than he was (15) and he acted like a horse refusing to jump a hurdle. He stayed in his dressing room and had refused to come out, redressed and went back home. And the game a week before this one was almost abandoned by him after having received too much criticism. He restarted and eventually made it to the end.
My task today was to check him out while reffing a younger age group than himself. See if he should be advised to stop this self-hurting ref training course. Or maybe grow with the age groups and become a good ref, but at a much slower pace than in this course.
After his initial hesitation to enter the pitch, he started the U13 game and ended it well. It must be said, it wasn’t a difficult game and everyone was friendly and accepted most of his decisions. In our short evaluation afterwards he didn’t bring in any game management elements he thought he could improve on. He was just too happy he made it to the end safely.
My report was positive about this game performance but contained a warning to the FA we might have to pull the plug as he will continue to act unpredictable and is too much concerned just about himself. I wish him all the best and hope he won’t bring unnecessary stress on himself for a sports hobby as refereeing just is.
“Playing grass or astroturf?” – Rodric Leerling
This week, a report was released with suggestions to improve professional football in the Netherlands. It contains ideas to create a more level playing field for exactly that: the playing field.
Thing is, in Holland, out of the 18 pro clubs playing in Eredivisie, 5 play on astro turf and 13 on natural grass. That’s not considered fair and quite unique in the world. The advice to the Dutch FA (KNVB): pro clubs should either all play on grass or all on astro turf.
But another (tv) report this week really shook Dutch amateur football heavily. It reported about the total of currently 2.000 (!) astro turf fields where 90% are filled with car tyre granular rubber which might be a health danger. A small number of clubs (read: local governments) has chosen cork or sand as filling.
FYI: 95% of my amateur youth games these days are played on astro turf. Youngsters will soon have forgotten totally how real grass feels (and smells). Last Saturday I witnessed what happens when they are sent to real green grass. Swearing the stupid bumpy surface where the ball has a different feel, running slower mostly.
But the potential health dangers of playing on artificial grass with granular rubber filling might change their attitude (or probably their parents’). Goal keepers who are in the floor mostly can get in trouble when swallowing the tiny rubbers pieces or when the toxic elements enter the bloodstream with a small wound.
Alternative: replace the rubber filling with cork. More expensive but no health danger. Let’s see how many clubs (or local governments) will intervene and cancel playing on astro turf until better research is being conducted. And in the meantime: dress goalkeepers so they are covered on arms and legs.
“How some Assessors kindly announce themselves” – Rodric Leerling
It’s not quite their habit to introduce themselves. As ref you tend to recognize them though, walking around your pitch with a notebook. Making notes when you made a call, take a free-kick position or other things happening during the match.
This time, however, the assessor made himself known. While I was doing my warming-up he came to me for a chat. About the weather, my game expectations etc. and wishing me a good game. But he did gave me a stern look when I walked off the pitch, looking at my socks pulled down due the warm weather.
And then on top of that the game didn’t start as I wanted it, and normally agree with both teams: 5mins before the game I will collect you at the lockers. The away team told me they would stay on the pitch after the warming-up as it was too far to walk back. Ok, fine with me. But the home team had to change their jerseys and made the walk back just when I headed for the pitch. No brownie points for starting on time, that’s for sure.
The game was pretty fair and ended in a 1-1 draw. I only had to issue 3 yellow cards, all for shirt pulling after giving several verbal warnings. And then the assessor was there again. I made a complaint about the stupid late start and he said he would have to make a point about it in the report. But, overall, it was a very good game. He had to agree with all my decisions and thought I had full control and was clearly at ease. Which I was. No mentioning about the socks.
We will have to see the official assessor report first, but one thing I know for sure: I didn’t perform differently because of the assessor. I might keep my socks up during warming up, though. With Ref Report nr.1 in the pocket it’s a better start than last year, for sure.
“Explaining new Football Rules: Deliberate vs Accidental” – Rodric Leerling
The new footie season has only just started and I’ve already issued two red cards. Both for similar fouls, by the way. This weekend it was a U17 player taking his opponent down just before the box. With no more defenders before him, the attacker had only the goalkeeper in front of him and positioned himself in a strong goal scoring opportunity.
The defender claimed he was playing the ball and accidently also clipped his opponent. Well, young man, the ball wasn’t going the direction of the tackle and you took him down from behind, a rather clumsy way to try to play a ball in my opinion.
He walked off the pitch, swearing and hitting the boarding, probably to demonstrate everyone it was not him who made a mistake, but the referee. The consequent free kick (not a penalty) would go in as well. The sent-off player (or his coach) could have started a formal discussion with me referring to the new FIFA rules. And what if the foul would have been two meters further towards the goal and inside the box? Should I not have issued just a yellow card and a penalty kick (double-punishment) or maintain the triple-punishment rule? The answer must be ‘no’ as IFAB clearly says: “only players committing accidental fouls that deny a goalscoring chance will now be cautioned instead” and this was no accidental foul, but a clear “deliberate foul“.
Thinking about it again when filling in the foul report, I learned about this important distinction and will need it, no doubt, at a later stage. I can almost feel there are more red cards coming.
“Should I dismiss a flip-flop assistant ref?”- Rodric Leerling
The away team told me one of their sub players would be my AR (assistant ref). Well, as long as he is 14 years of age they can perform that role. His team was 15+ so decide to allow it.
But after the half-time break another youngster took over and I just looked him in the eye. No time to go over the instructions again and I just would have to follow him more closely. But forgot to look down. After 3 minutes in second half I suddenly noticed he was wearing flip-flops with white socks. Unbelievable. How could I not have noticed that?
I stopped the game and told him this wouldn’t work. He offered to run on his white socks and I agreed. Spectators were laughing and making smart comments. I would ignore my new assistant ref on one or two signals as he couldn’t work it out and just did what he deemed was right. But running on white socks on warm astro turf certainly proved to be a really bad idea.
“Cold shower and rabbit holes” -Rodric Leerling
My football day in Amsterdam started with rabbit holes and ended with a cold shower. In between I had a decent game of football and that was about the only thing I could control.
I can’t recall the last time I reffed a game on real grass this season as the majority of Dutch youth games are
played on astroturf nowadays. As a result, I almost forgot about the issues a ref could face, like the small pitch holes dug by rabbits I found on my field inspection.
I asked for a quick repair on which the groundsman diligently started with repairing complete grass patches. I didn’t want to criticize his approach but carefully aired my concern looking at the time left before gamestart. He said not to worry, he would make it in time, but I decided to help him marking the various rabbitholes with small branches. I left for my admin game preps and just hoped he would find them all. To my big relief he in fact did.
The game went well and I returned to the ref locker room, looking forward to a nice shower. To find out there was no hot water. Bummer! The fringes of today’s game were unfortunate but I decided to cherish a good game of reffing and delete the irritations.