Thursday, May 31, 2012

Death by Banana?

So I will say up front I am not making light of the plight of Mario Bolotelli with my title. He would clearly seem to have endured racial abuse both on and off the pitch, and I for one have no tolerance for it.

My question is, are people really throwing bananas at him? Where is FIFA on that? Sepp ran as fast as he could to the nearest man of color on the FIFA EXCOM to show he was not racist last fall. Where is he now?

Sepp .... hello?

Check out "Throw bananas and I'll kill you, warns Man City striker Balotelli ahead of Euros" from Mail Online and you'll get a sense of just how graphic and poorly behaved some fans are.

Like I said, I have no tolerance for it and neither should FIFA.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rangers Get a Red Card?

FIFA may yet act to eject Rangers: Governing body monitoring SFA action

FIFA warned the SFA it will monitor what action is taken against Rangers after the Ibrox club successfully challenged their transfer embargo at the Court of Session.

And there were fears that a spiralling situation could ultimately end with Rangers having their SFA membership terminated — or FIFA handing down a ban on Scottish clubs entering European competition and Scotland playing internationals.

A new dimension to the already complicated and fraught situation at Ibrox began when a judge ruled that an SFA Judicial Panel did not have the power to impose a 12-month registration ban after finding the club guilty of disrepute charges. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Mail Online.

Kicking Back Comments: Anyone following the $$ on this one? Should be clear if FIFA is challenging in court, it must be losing something.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Huffing and Puffing" Redux

Paul Levy strikes again with a good article from Not Running A Hospital. In this episode, Huffing and Puffing, Paul and some refereeing colleagues detail anecdotal examples of how the fitness levels of players has changed over the years. He comes to an interesting conclusion on that front as well. Take a look at the article, it was somewhat of a surprise ending that I don't completely disagree with.

It got me thinking however, not only do we have a larger rate of "more unfit players" (my term - and I don't think that is anecdotal, but is supported by good evidence regarding childhood weight), but I would also opine, even purely as a matter of sampling, that we also have a larger number of unfit referees.

Now there is a continuum here to be sure. Referees at the International and Professional level train nearly every day, and need to, to be able to keep up with the game. As you traverse the ranks, there is really less and less training required at the typical town level. If you go to a tournament like the Dallas Cup, all bets are off as those players in most groups are very experienced, very fit, and professionally trained. They will not hesitate to take advantage of a referee who has a "blind spot" because they can not get to a particular play.

Long story short, if you don't want to train to referee, to do well, you should plan to keep it in the youth soccer world (like U-12 and below who need a manager more than a referee), and fairly local. This may sound like a jab to youth soccer (who need good referees!), but it is really just intended to reinforce the point that you can not referee a match to train, to be ready to referee. It's a circular argument that holds no water.

Now, you can use matches to supplement your training. I used to do this a bunch where I would work a amateur match regularly to ready myself mentally and physically for a professional match. It was a "tuner" as it was. But to do no training, at all, and show up on Sunday for a match is not good practice, and frankly is not good training.

Think about it this way, you are training once a week in the event you are competing in. While I would agree by the end of a 3 month season you may have a marginal increase in fitness is it really the fitness you need for a match? Also, what about all those matches you were not "match fit" for? Is this fair to those teams?

I think not.

Train to referee ... not referee to train.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Lesson from Indy

So in cruising the information superhighway, I saw the video below. Take a quick peek.

Player (in white) was getting cute, yes?

Referee is nowhere to be seen, which may be a bad think as if this player does not get rid of the ball, an opponent may have the mind to go in and clean his clock, just for showboating.

In cases like this, it is important for the referee to be aware, or bad things can happen.

Case in point is the clip below from Indiana Jones.

Any questions?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Secret Drink Mix"

So dear friends, tournament season is upon us, and as many have heard me say in the past, refereeing at tournaments is an endurance sport.

At these events you are endurance athletes and need to fuel yourself like endurance athletes.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart as in my post-refereeing life I too am an endurance athlete in a different sport, cycling. These lessons are directly relatable though, and I offer an article on the topic here.

The author is Dr. Allen Lim, an exercise physiologist for Omega-Pharma-Quickstep pro cycling team. His blog post, Hydration Science and Practice, is a good reminder about how to fuel your body, and why just water is not enough, and some popular sports drinks are too much.

He does have an electrolyte solution for sale that I have not tried, so I don't have any comment on it yet, but (and more importantly of this discussion), the science involved is spectacular and worth looking at for any endurance athlete. I have included the video here which details his experiment.

Truly fascinating stuff, and a reminder about what it takes to keep and endurance athlete working at capacity for long stretches of time.

Think about it, a multi day stage race for cycling, 3 to 5 hours in the saddle churning for much of that time, for a few days in a row. Youth tournament play, several game sets, 5+ hours in a day working or exposed, for several days back to back. Both are demanding .... very demanding ... and there is some sharing between the two I feel.

"Secret Drink Mix" comes from Dr. Lim himself where he worked on the Tour de France in secretly replacing the overly sweet drinks supplied by the sponsor with his own, all natural recipes. Riders loved them, and thrived using this formula. As it was kept from the sponsors it became known as the "Secret Drink Mix."

Today, Dr. Lim and company can be found dispensing products, advice, and a most excellent cookbook (The FeedZone Cookbook) at SkratchLabs. If you are really interested, he has his "Secret Drink Mix" available for sale also, here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Welcome Lydia!!

FIFA names woman to executive committee for first time

BUDAPEST (Reuters) -- FIFA co-opted a woman to its executive committee for the first time on Tuesday and continued its reform process by pressing ahead with changes to its ethics committee.

Lydia Nsekera, the president of the Burundi Football Association, will be installed as the co-opted executive committee member at the 62nd FIFA Congress this week with the formal election of a woman on the committee to follow at next year's Congress, soccer's governing body said in a statement.

Nsekera, 45, is a member of the women's football and the women's World Cup committees and is also on the organising committee for the Olympic Football Tournaments having been part of the IOC since 2009. ...

See the whole story here, from SI.

Kicking Back Comments: It would be sad to think that this move came out of exclusively an effort to reform, and not also out of a sense to include someone who is deserving to be an EXCOM member. She is president of the Fédération de Football du Burundi since 2004, and has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2009. Far more credentialed than some others who currently hold a seat.

Either way, I'll take it, as it is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sometimes you have to roll the dice

So for those who have been following me for a while, you know that I am also a huge cycling fan. For those who have been unlucky enough to sit through one of my presentations on teamwork I go into great details about cycling, how they work together, and how they need each other to win.

Another refereeing lesson was reenforced for me the other day from the cycling world when I was watching stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California. It was about taking risks.

You can see a profile of the stage here ... it is basically straight up.

Now, Chris Horner (of my favorite team - Radio Shack Nissan Trek) is last years winner, and was expected by many to repeat again this year. Only problem was that he was down 2:30ish in the General Classification (GC) before stage 7, meaning basically he had very little chance, short of a catastrophe for many other rides, to win the GC.

Knowing this was the case, at the beginning of the stage, he collected several members of his team, and "Swung for the GC Fence."

He knew it was a long shot, and basically did not care what everyone else thought ... he went for it, and very nearly won it all with such an epic risk.

Refereeing can be like that sometimes. You have to take that risk. It might be in the form of playing an advantage, maybe it is NOT cautioning a player that did not "feel" right to do. Maybe it is sending off a player straight away to keep the match from going into disrepute.

In all matches there are elements of risk involved. After all, you don't know what is going to happen when you choose A over B. Sometimes picking one path has more risk than another. There are times that we do this knowingly as a referee to move to a particular desired outcome, ultimately to manage a match. There are times however, we make a decision not being fully aware what the outcome may be.

In all cases however, when we learn about the risks, we have to be ready to take them. There are times taking these risks (with the best of intentions) will yield disaster. There are also times when they will yield a beautiful match.

Taking no risks however may yield the same results, but you will get there in a far more unpredictable fashion than if you were to take the risk. After all, this is the magic of refereeing soccer where the referee is allowed such wide discretion to manage the match how they see fit, and take those chances to allow the magic to happen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Joao Going Home

Former FIFA President Joao Havelange set to leave hospital next week

SAO PAULO — Doctors says former FIFA President Joao Havelange is expected to leave the hospital next week, more than two months after being admitted with a serious infection on his right ankle.

The Hospital Samaritano said Friday the 96-year-old Havelange improved significantly after leaving semi-intensive care last week and will be allowed to return home in a few days if his health doesn’t deteriorate. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: I am happy to see this, and I have to believe Joao is too. 

I did get a laugh though in the article in his leaving "semi-intensive case." What the heck is that? It made it sound like is was a "kind of" serious issue. I would think it was *serious* until it was not.

Ladies and gentlemen, demonstrating cunning logic like this is why I am an engineer and not a doctor.

Friday, May 18, 2012

EA is at it again ...

Developers EA Sports has revealed a range of innovations for its latest upcoming game FIFA 13.

The game comes with new features giving realistic touch with improved artificial intelligence. FIFA 13 introduces game changing features like Complete Dribbling, First Touch Control and Attacking Intelligence.

"We are perfecting the best sports game in the world with innovations that capture all the drama and unpredictability of real-world football," said David Rutter, Executive Producer for FIFA 13 in a press release. "These are game-changing innovations that will revolutionize our artificial intelligence, dribbling, ball control and collisions to create a true battle for possession across the entire pitch, and deliver freedom and creativity in attack," Rutter added. ...

See the whole story here, from

Kicking Back Comments: I remain amazed at this EA franchise and how incredibly lucrative it remains for them. I would still love to see a "player" option through the referee eyes. Not a big seller likely (and I recognize that this is what it is all about at the end of the day), but neat none the less.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Becks, POTUS, and Underwear

Well it was good to hear about the LA Galaxy visit to the White House the other day. It is a tradition that goes back for some time for presidents to greet winners of major sports competitions.

As some may recall I wrote about the kerfuffle that Tim Thomas caused when he chose not to visit the White House. Becks, excuse me Sir David Beckham, would never insult a world leader, or his team in that way.

Apparently POTUS took a few jabs at Becks however, kiddingly calling him "old", and commenting on his underwear (ad).

I'll admit, it was pretty funny.

Take a look at the whole thing here, including video, from the NY Daily News.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Welcome Back!

Dear Readers of Kicking Back,

Thanks for being patient with me over the last 3 or so weeks when I have been off and left to my own devices.

It has been a stark reminder of how "real life" can catch up when you are not looking. Gratefully nothing "bad" to be sure, in fact some great stuff, but change none the less that has taken me away from you. For that I am sorry as I enjoy our time here.

A special thanks to those who have reached out over that time, just to check in.

To kick things off right (so to speak) on my return for the abyss, is to reenforce how to send off a coach, or for that matter any team official,  with a neat video from US Soccer in "Ask, Tell, Dismiss."

It's a good video that can help referees take an "easy" 3 step approach, to what can be a very difficult issue.

So please enjoy the video, and the articles coming your way in the days to come as we start to get into the heart of the season.