Friday, June 29, 2012



After two hours of goalless soccer, Spain defeated Portugal today 4-2 on penalty kicks to advance to the finals of Euro 2012. The match was quite disappointing. I never imagined that two teams this good could produce such a poor contest.

Portugal deployed superstar Ronaldo in basically a free lance attacking position, apparently not asking him to do much defensively. But Spain gained little advantage from this decision because, fearful of Ronaldo, their right-back Arbeloa rarely joined in the attack as he did so effectively against France. So Ronaldo was contained, but Spain lost an attacking option.

Spain decided to start a true center forward instead of six midfielders. However, Negredo, the center forward selected was largely ineffective. Spain replaced him with a sixth midfielder, Fabregas, after 53 minutes. Unfortunately, Spain didn’t improve during the next 37. ...

See the whole story here, from PowerLine.

Kicking Back Comments: Good comments, and I too agree with the conclusion that the Portugal coach erred in this one with his player selection.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Les jeux sont faits, Platini??

Platini: Introducing goal-line technology would be a historical mistake

The clamor for confirmation over whether a ball has crossed the line has grown following Ukraine’s ghost-goal against England, but the UEFA chief is strongly against any changes

UEFA president Michel Platini believes FIFA would be making a “historical mistake” if it introduced goal-line technology, following growing calls for its introduction after Ukraine was denied a goal against England in its Euro 2012 Group D clash. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: I think thou protest too much Mr. Platini. While I agree with his position, and even the reason he states for it in this article, I'm not quite sure this is his only reasoning.

He was the inventor of EAR's (I call them AAR's) and frankly would not look great if they went by the wayside in lieu of GLT.

I'll be honest, I don't see the benefit given the cost. Given the amount of controversy a referee can inject into a match, and the given number of decisions they make, or can help get right, I'm not seeing it.

I think at the highest level it makes sense ... more eyes are better. What has been forgotten is that more referees == more controversy, and the Ukraine v. England match was no exception. The EAR should have called the goal as I wrote earlier.

Believe me, I don't like the ideas of EAR's, or the idea of GLT. Then again, you are listening to a guy who still wears long sleeves when he referees.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FIFA 13 Pre-Order Incentives

For any who have not seen the trailer for FIFA13 .. here it is ... and is pretty cool:

Also, check out, "FIFA 13 pre-orders to feature 'extensive incentives' says EA", from T3 as apparently early adopters are in for some cool treats.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Match fixing and flares ... all in a days work

FIFA's Director of Security Mutschke "Our objective is long-term success"

With Ralf Mutschke less than a month into his new role as FIFA's Director of Security, spoke to the former INTERPOL director about the diverse range of tasks he now faces. This week you're flying to Brazil, hosts of the next FIFA World Cup™. What are you expecting from your first visit to the country?

Ralf Mutschke: The World Cup is one of the main topics I'm dealing with. That's why I'm happy to be going to Brazil for the first time next week with FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke. I'll meet our partners over there in order to establish an integrated security plan together. A lot of progress has already been made on that front and we need to put it into practice. But it's difficult because there are so many organisations responsible for security in Brazil. The national government, the host cities and regions, the Local Organising Committee (LOC), a special security taskforce (SESGE), the various state security authorities, the military and even private security firms are involved and we need to coordinate them all. That will keep me very busy. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of
Kicking Back Comments: Now there is one person's job at FIFA that I would not want. Talk about "boiling the ocean!"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Key Findings from Regional Amateur tournament

The following were some key findings and observations from inspectors and assessors at last week's USASA Region 1 Championships.  This tournament featured a very select group of 20 top-level referees in the Northeast US, all grade 5 or above.  The observations were made by no fewer than eight high level Inspectors and National Assessors sent by the Federation, including Brian Hall from CONCACAF.  There was no debating the credentials of the observers or the validity of their comments!  Some of the findings are sobering considering the assembled officiating talent.

  • Crews felt empowered by referee
  • Good communication from referee to ARs
  • Overall focus and quality of ARs was good
  • Referees were following USSF directives

Things to work on:
  • Overall read of the game was lacking
  • No urgency in movement and action when the game required, and an inability to read the warning signs and lend a presence to the situation  
  • Effort level and an inability to sprint as needed for 90 minutes 
  • Dealing with serious challenges the first time they occur
  • The referee's personality (response) often did not match the situation, and/or the referee's body language sent the wrong message
  • Foul recognition and foul selection was below par

Action plan for all referees:
  • Improve yourself by searching out more matches
  • Watch more matches to see what top referees are doing
  • Professionalism – always be prepared!

What is significant about these findings is that they were universally shared by all of the observers.  In most cases, there is some disagreement even among experts as to the relative strengths and weaknesses of any individual referee or group of referees, but at this tournament the consensus was entirely unanimous.  Obviously we have some things to work on at the higher levels if our amateur referees desire to turn pro.

I will talk more about some of these specific bullet points in a future post.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We are not all one trick ponies

Meet more of football’s all-round sportsmen

Four years ago, while Lionel Messi was preparing to light up the FIFA Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, drew inspiration from the Games and ran a piece on the multi-talented footballers who have managed to pursue professional careers in other sports (see link on the right).

In the meantime, Argentina’s legendary former striker Gabriel Batistuta has taken up polo and ex-France full-back Bixente Lizarazu has become a European champion of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, while stars from other sports have been trying their hand at football, such as 2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro, who signed for Spanish third division football club Coruxo. ... 

See the full article here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: A very good article and a excellent reminder that players, and referees are more than they appear. While we all play roles, we are often much more than the role we play.

... and by the way. Oscar Pereiro was actually 2nd in the 2006 TdF, to American Floyd Landis ... until he flunked several doping tests. (source)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Right on cue

Fifa chief expects goal-line technology approval in July

Warsaw: Fifa president Sepp Blatter revealed that he and Franz Beckenbauer are “on the same page” over goal-line technology after the two met in Zurich on Thursday.

The Swiss reiterated the need for technology to be introduced after Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine were denied a goal against England in their decisive Group D fixture on Tuesday, after television replays showed that the ball had crossed the line. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of zeenews.

Kicking Back Comments: Like I said the other day, not a shocker given the recent events in the Euros. My question is ... will the technology even work?

Also of interest are some of the other matters Sepp & Co. are considering tinkering with. Interesting times as (IMHO) we see a swing away from the referee having the discretion and authority they once did.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Your clothes speak louder than you do

So as I wrote about this last weekend, I was out riding as a domestique for Team Schneider Electric for the 2012 MS150 in Rhode Island.

Great weekend for cycling and aside from a minor calf strain and damage to my "secondary hull", all came away unscathed and in good spirits.

One thing that kept happening over the ride was that people kept calling me by the name on my jersey, "Schneider Electric", and asking me questions about the company.

I'm not complaining, as that is why I was there wearing the jersey, which was to be a brand ambassador, and let people know our company was involved in community outreach as well as "business as usual."

What you wear says a lot about you ... at times when you least expect it.

In my example, I obviously knew what I was doing and also made sure I acted appropriately. Now if I saw someone 
zipping by on a bike wearing the jersey at left, I would know it was Fabian Cancellara, the Swiss National Champion ... again.

If I saw someone wearing a US Soccer referee program shirt, I would imagine they were a US Soccer referee.

If I saw that same person entering an establishment of questionable moral fiber (as defined by the individual observer), I would take note if they were wearing a US Soccer polo of some type.

So what's the message?

If you want to go out after a day on the fields, don't wear anything (anything!) with a soccer logo of any type (not just your FIFA warmup), and stay out of trouble. There is nothing wrong with legal relaxation, so long as it does not get out of hand.

As some have heard, part of this suggestion was followed by (3) Toronto FC players, unfortunately (for them) they were arrested on public intoxication charges, and sent home.

The quote from the TFC coach (Paul Mariner, the former England International) is excellent and spot on. From the article:

"I think it doesn't matter whether it's basketball, ice hockey or whatever sport," said Mariner, a former England international. "I've been a professional athlete myself and you're held to a higher level of order because you're in the spotlight and you're living in a privileged position of being a so-called elite athlete."

Let me add to that as well. This is true for athletes for certain ... it is even more heightened for those who judge these elite athletes. Trust me folks, a referee can lose a badge over something like this ... so just don't do it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Referees, and no goal

Just take a look:

Pretty clear to me ... and should have been for the AAR straddling the goal line, 7 yards away from the post, or even the AR streaking down the field.

Has Platini's experiment with (5) referees failed with this?

Does this seal the fate of goal line technology up for a vote in a couple of weeks?

Sepp tweeted to that effect saying that goal line technology was now a "necessity."

A good article from SF Gate, "England's Luck Changes as Euros Officials Miss Ukraine Goal" covers these angles and more.

Maybe it was luck ... maybe it was poor refereeing ... maybe it was mana from heaven where the "Soccer Gods" smiled on England for a change in this regard.

In any event, I think sadly, it made goal line technology a lock for future matches.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's good for the goose ...

FIFA to test referees for banned drugs

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -FIFA says referees could soon undergo testing for banned performance enhancing drugs.

FIFA's chief medical officer Jiri Dvorake says referees are part of the game and should be treated like players.

Dvorak tells FIFA's medical conference there is no indication of a doping problem among referees "but it's something we have to consider.'' ...
See the whole article here, from

Kicking Back Comments: Just throwing it out there for now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kicking Back == Hypocrisy?

So as a backdrop for this whole story are the recent (re)accusations of Lance Armstrong (this time) by the USADA for doping.

Before I make my primary observation, here are some background opinions on the whole thing to set the stage.

  1. I believe the USADA has a useful overall function in keeping young, amateur, developing athletes away from medication that will ultimately hurt them.
  2. I believe that the CEO of the USADA, Travis Tygart, is wrong to go after Lance Armstrong. I will expand on why in a later post tentatively titled "Ahab and his Whale."
  3. I believe Lance Armstrong is a "clean" rider, yet recognize the mounting amount of what I would consider circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
  4. I have spent much of my youth, and all of my adult life trying to stop cheating inside soccer fields across the US and internationally on a more limited basis.
Now ... come in the wayback machine with me to 1986 in Mexico. Anyone recall this:

As a young referee with aspirations of becoming FIFA, I was furious. How could such cheating be left without being punished? How could someone who claimed to have respect for The Game cheat so blatantly?

How dare they!!

I instantly became an anti-fan of Diego Maradona, and while I have tremendous respect for his ability, I personally do not believe he has any respect for The Game at all, and should be punished as a cheater, when he demonstrated such.

Now, enter Lance, and his current controversy. I have to be honest, I don't feel the same way ... even if there is a "smoking gun" of evidence found showing he doped during his (7) Tour victories.

I had to stop for a second and really think about why that was. Why isn't a cheater (like Maradona) a cheater (like Armstrong)?

Was it that Maradona's multitude of incidents was just so off the reservation that put me to a point of no return? If true, why didn't Lance doping for (7) years get me to the same place?

Is it that Maradona has not made much of an appearance on the charity circuit as opposed to Armstrong's notable Livestrong Foundation? Not sure if that is true either as Maradona has done charity work for UNICEF, as well as a variety of other causes.

So what is it?

As scary as this might seem, I think for me it comes down to likability. While I have not met (for any length of time) either man, I just like Lance better than Diego.

One is a cheater, and one may soon be proven to be one which theoretically makes them equivalent.

In the eyes of a referee, they should be punished the same as we are not in the business of determining why a player did what they did, but rather responding to the actions they took.

There are always nuances and extraordinary factors to be sure. Do we think however that a player received a caution because you "knew they were going to be trouble", not by what they actually did? Or the opposite of "she's really nice most of the time", so was not sent off today.

It's hard to drop a bias and be completely objective, if that is even possible. As a referee however, we have to dump the baggage, and act on what we see.

As sad as that is to me, Diego and Lance would be one in the same, if Lance is found to have doped.

Monday, June 18, 2012

UEFA's Turn "at bat"

Palestine: FIFA urged to cancel European football tournament in Israel

Palestine football leaders have urged UEFA to remove Israel as the 2013 European Under-21 Championship host nation for jailing Palestinian national team players without trial.

Palestine federation president Jibril Rajoub wrote to UEFA President Michel Platini to say that Israel's government is in "direct violation of FIFA regulations." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Muslim News.

Kicking Back Comments: I would have the same warning for UEFA as I did for FIFA the other day ... be very deliberate if you want to get involved in this one or not.

On another note, I find it interesting (that is to say odd) that as "punishment" for allegedly jailing individuals of a particular citizenship, a soccer tournament is proper to be taken away.

I don't know, even in the extreme, one would seem to far outweigh the other.

Haebous Corpus ... soccer tournament. Not a tough choice, for me anyway.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Back in the saddle

I'm at it again folks in the 2nd ride of my "spring classics" with "Ride the Rhode", a 150 mile, 2 day stage ride supporting the National MS Society.

Serving as domistique for Team Schneider Electric, this ride looks to be fantastic with an opportunity to cross both the Newport and Jamestown bridges on Saturday.

I'll be in the saddle for these two days, but will be back at you on Monday with a road report, and other goings on in the football world.

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Needham Tournament Retrospective

As many have heard me say here, the Needham Invitational Tournament is one of the very best the US can offer as far as youth tournaments.

While not my first tournament I ever refereed in (this was the Framingham United Memorial Day Tournament), it is certainly unparalleled among showcase tournaments, and one that I love to work at.

Don't believe me, let the 2012 numbers speak for themselves:
  • 774 Teams participated
  • Over 500 referees from all parts of the United States from California to Maine and international referees from Canada, Australia, and England.
  • Needham is now second largest tournament in United States with US cup being first.
  • Over 84 soccer fields were used from Braintree to Lancaster, Massachusetts.
  • There were over 40 mentors throughout the tournament to help develop referees.
  • Specialized ladies tournament academy was held second year in a row.
Can you imagine that ... 500 referees?

What an amazing effort.

If you are a young referee looking to do some quality matches next year at Memorial Day, I would strongly consider seeking out this tournament. It is simply one of the best in the country.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Be careful FIFA ... Is THIS your fight?

FIFA concerned about detention of Palestine players

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed grave concern over reports that several Palestine players have been illegally detained in Israel.

Blatter had written to the Israel Football Association and asked it to draw the attention of Israeli authorities to the matter, FIFA said in a statement.

“FIFA President Joseph Blatter expressed today grave concern and worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players,” the statement said. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Al Arabiya news.

Kicking Back Comments: Please let me be clear, my ONLY comment here is FIFA may want to seriously rethink getting involved in this one. I recognize that we are dealing with football players here and FIFA feels the need to get involved. I don't need to say that there is a much wider canvas to this particular issue, well beyond football, and it is my sense based on FIFA's bungling in the past, they should just sit this one out and let the two countries sort it out themselves. They eventually will.

Does Sepp really think, really, any of the involved parties are going to listen to him on this one?

Ego thy name is Sepp.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You know it's bad when ...

... there are people teaching you to cheat in FIFA for PES.

At least the author has the sense to note not to try this in the "real world."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This is not news ...

Hat Tip to Madame X for this one.

She found this article, "Navigating injury: Can GPS help reduce player burnout?" from CNN.

I'll be honest, this was not real exciting to me as if footballers are just getting wind of this type of technology now, and ways to use it ... well, its just disappointing.

This type of technology has been around for a long, long, time.

Way back in the early 2000's I even worked at a company that did this type of work, Trakus. It is (now) a Wakefield Massachusetts based company that specializes in tracking for broadcast, near real time positioning of horses.

Back in the day, it did the same thing for hockey players and was used in the 2001 NHL All Star Game. A sample output of the technology is shown below.

Photo courtesy InterSystems
Without getting into the 1's and 0's of it, a player is tracked in real time, and that information is stored digitally and able to be regurgitated to get statistics such as distance, speed, acceleration, playing time, and so on.

Now, GPS and GPS type system (like the Trakus system above) have been around for a while, and recently with the advent of low and lower cost electronics have been made available to the "prosumer" (like me with my cycling stuff), and the consumer (like most of us with a GPS in their car).

The suggestion from the CNN article is a very simple, and very known one which is, if you track your effort, you will know how you should be training, and when you should be resting to avoid burnout, excess fatigue, and therefore injury.

Honestly, anyone who is really, really serious about training knows about periodicity and training, and may even track their efforts through a commercially available device, such as the Garmin 405CX that I have.

Heck for me I am even measuring power outputs on my bike during rides. This is hardly advanced stuff and is absolutely essential to me training. An example if how this looks can be found here.

This information can be really useful for match analysis as well. Take at look at "Stuck on the Diagonal" and "Just a High School Match?" from last October and you'll get a sense of just how powerful a tool it is.

If professional coaches are just getting wind of this type of stuff now, they are way behind the curve.

My sense is they have known about it for a while now as there are some really talented exercise physiologists working with teams. What I believe is that there will be great resistance to this on (2) fronts.

First, because it goes against "tradition" (whatever that is) the use of GPS systems will not be easily accepted.

Second, these devices will not be accepted because it puts data on the page that can significantly effect players salaries and transfer fees. As a result players unions and agents may fight to prevent such collection. Can you see the discussion, it goes something like this:

Team Management: Gee Becks, you want a 3 year deal? Let's take a look at your stats last year. Wow, you played in 25 matches and ran an average of 6.5 miles per match. That's down 13% from the previous year. Also, your average speed was down over 2 MPH as well. How about a 1 year deal?

You think I'm kidding.

Players, coaches, and referees are fired for their performance, and often times that is based on objective data such as how many wins, losses, goals, serious incidents, and so on. Imagine if there were a whole set of digitally collect stats for all of these folks? Can you imagine how these would be used?

Now, as we all know, soccer is much more than that. Even the best team on paper can produce horrible results. Just take a look at my poor Radio Shack Nissan Trek cycling team. On paper, the very best team in the world, hands down. In reality, they could not put a beach ball in the ocean if they were standing in the middle of the Atlantic, right now anyway. I am holding my breath for Le Tour however.

It's a piece of the puzzle, and one that can be really abused by those who choose to manipulate the data for their own devices ... as many do.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Knucklehead Factor


The word knucklehead has enjoyed a revival lately. Even President Obama has used it – to describe people who would take a bullet for him, but who made serious errors of judgment in Colombia.

Usually, though, the term is used by sportswriters to refer to talented players whose immaturity undermines their play and, more importantly, that of their team. Such players – even one of them if he’s central enough – can destroy a team. Just ask the Washington Wizards who in the past few years have labored under the weight of at least four knuckleheads: Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, and (to a lesser degree) Nick Young and JaVale McGee. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of PowerLine.

Kicking Back Comments: Great commentary, from one of my favorite political blogs, with candid commentary on England's "knuckleheads." Great read!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


No soccer related post today as I am riding in the Tour de Cure 2012 in southern Rhode Island to To Stop Diabetes!

On behalf of the 25 million Americans with diabetes and their families and friends, OUR FRIENDS, COWORKERS AND FAMILIES, thank you in helping our team make a difference!

The funds and awareness we raised will support the American Diabetes Association's important research, information and advocacy efforts and its mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

See you all back here tomorrow for more Kicking Back.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Secret Drink Mix Followup

So last week sometime I posed an article about "Secret Drink Mix", and more specifically about the science of hydration generally.

Well, I am happy to report that I have been using the Skratch Labs Secret Drink Mix for a week on training rides ... and it is AWESOME!!

Hands down best mix I have used, and I am hooked now and forever on the stuff. My personal favorite being the raspberry.

Now in that article I shared a video of Dr. Lim, and a really neat experiment about hydration in general.

Well right on cue, Dr. Williams of The Science of Soccer Online, posted Heat, Dehydration and Performance, a very worthy read on the topic.

The bottom line, and I quote from the article:

"The bottom line is, keep dehydration at bay by drinking plenty of fluids before and during play. Also, drink after the match. Staying hydrated can improve performance and avoid health problems."

Don't forget, referees are endurance athletes too, and need to abide by this same advice. For my money Skratch Labs has the best stuff around for it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

13 Years Later ... and Not At All Easier

In continued loving memory of Stephen A. Kokolski.

June 8, 2012 - 13 years departed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Refereeing Can Be Like This ...

Up, coffee, feed, gather, race, rinse, repeat


That was the subject line of an e-mail from my husband, Lee. HMMM, wonder what that is about. Well it turns out that the cherry trees on our property are booming with lovely yummy cherries. I miss home.

Hump day is over, and I am excited about the last few days of this race. It has been a tough one. I know that I am a strong rider, but it is hard to accept that I am elite enough to be where I am right now. I truly have to fight back thoughts of not belonging and only being lucky. Some of the other ladies have some pretty impressive backgrounds that give them a fighting edge. I hope to be aggressive and competitive enough to pull this through. ...

See the whole story here, from Cycling News.

Kicking Back Comments: Let's face it, refereeing can be BORING sometimes. A match is not challenging, you are just not in the mood, a coach or player is really busting your chops, it can be less than fun.

It can be hard to have the mental toughness to be able to referee day in, day out like is detailed here in a multiple day stage race. It takes hard work, and a strong team to do well, day in, and day out.

Traveling is hard, being away from home is hard, working day in and day out in something that requires so much concentration is hard.

Don't forget, take a break every once in a while. I just (re)learned this lesson the other day. While training for a cycling event, I spent (11) days in a row training ... and paid dearly for it. I found myself just not wanting to get on the bike, tired, and not having fun. What did I do? Took a weekend off the bike, and eating some of my favorite junk foods and watched some TV.

Same is true for refereeing. Build in some breaks, and take some time for yourself and your family. The Game will consume every last moment you have if you let it. Take it from one who has been there. Take a weekend and unplug ... you'll be a better referee for it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why I Love "Zero Tolerance" in Youth Matches

Yesterday I wrote about why I really dislike "zero tolerance" mindsets. On a personal note Mrs. Kicking Back did not like that designation, despite agreeing with the subject matter. Henceforth she will be called "Madam X." I'm sure she will find that much more flattering. If not I hope the hospital has good WiFi =/

There is a flip side to the zero tolerance paradigm, and to me it centers around youth referees in general. If there is a place where there should be no tolerance for nonsense, it is in these circles.

Now I admit to having a true dislike for perceived authority, and I have run into my fair share of folks as a youth referee who thought I should listen to them, just because they were older.


My dad gave me a stellar piece of advice when I was very young in my career, and it was while I was refereeing that I could "talk back" to adults.

I think when he first told me I could hardly contain myself.

Now, I have to admit that there were times ... are times ... that I go overboard with this one. While now it is based in good intentions, the negative results can be the same.

I am a big fan of telling it like it is, and a youth referee standing up, in a good spirited way, to a demeaning player or coach I think is a great thing. Sadly, I think far too may parents and coaches need a reminder of civility, and would not respond well to a "dressing down", even appropriately.

Enter Zero Tolerance.

Such a rule has the best of intentions which is to protect the youth referees that are arbitrating these youth matches. Frankly, they need it as how can a 15 year old reasonably withstand withering criticism from folks that generally have no idea about the laws of the game.

There is a better than 50% attrition rate for youth (soccer) referees after the first year. That number levels off just a little after year 3, but it is still a huge number.

Now while I am certain there are several factors that cause this attrition (gee what else could a 16 year old boy have on his mind), fan(atic) and coach abuse I am fairly certain are among the top (5) reasons.

Zero Tolerance may help in many cases by at least making people aware there are consequences to their oral actions.

Does it get us all of the way there? Nope, not by a long shot in my opinion as it is critical for referees of all levels to have the life skills necessary to fend off (or ignore) an oral tongue lashing when it is based in nonsense.

I will say though, if it saves one referee, or even just makes others feel better about their chances of getting abused when refereeing, it may just be worth it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I Hate "Zero Tolerance" of Any Kind

So while my train of thought has been provoked by a specific incident in my youth soccer circles, I will use it to really answer (in part) the question that Mrs. Kicking Back asked me the other night on the couch when watching the Boston Celtics Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which was, what do I think is the hardest sport to referee?

My answer was, hands down, soccer, with a very close second being ice hockey.

Now to be sure, refereeing anything is challenging if done correctly. My (likely biased) answer comes from looking at the laws (rules) associated with each sport.

Soccer to me offers the most flexibility for the referee to work closely with the participants to help shape the outcome of the match. In other words, they can actively manage the match and its outcome, which is a wonderful thing.

Now, people don't come to a match to see the referee, no question, and the best referees will work to assure that is the case through their involvement. Refereeing legend and guru Wally Russell used to call it "painting yourself with invisible paint" before a match. You are there, but should not be seen.

Other sports (again excluding ice hockey) seem to be far more "referee-centric", and far more "rules-centric" than other sports. Soccer as we know has (17) Laws, and similarly, ice hockey has (10) Rules, yet baseball also has (10) Rules, yet is over 130 pages long! Gridiron football is similar with a nearly 250 page rule book.

Now some of this is genuine technical differences in the games, and some is in my opinion is overly mandating how a referee should deal with particular situations. In other words, there is little opinion referees can apply to some of these incidents, it is mandated in the rule.

Zero Tolerance (of anything) works in much the same way. While it has the specious beneficial effect of paving a path for a scenario that may be troublesome, or difficult to implement, it has the effect of failing to allow creative solutions to difficult situations.

I'll admit, I am of the ilk that chooses to blaze a path than follow one, which may very well be I enjoy refereeing soccer so much as it allows exactly that.

Now, with great power comes great responsibility, and the great opportunity to really screw things up. If I didn't want the risk though, I'd umpire baseball.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Free FIFA Soccer?

‘FIFA Soccer’ Maker Enlists Facebook To Lure New Players: Tech

Forty years after Pong bounced across screens to kick off the modern video-game era, Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) is struggling to adapt to the shifting nature of play, as gamers abandon high-priced consoles for tablets and smartphones. Now, the company has a plan.

The video-game giant plans to unveil free versions of some its most popular games for its Play4Free website and other sites, including Facebook, at the annual E3 video game expo, which begins today in Los Angeles. The move is part of bid to lure customers, who may not own an Xbox or Playstation, to try best-selling games such as “FIFA Soccer” and “Battlefield,” according to Peter Moore, chief operating officer. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Bloomberg.

Kicking Back Comments: Interesting idea. Mr Moore is a smart, smart guy in this arena and I look forward to seeing what the result will be. Heck, anyone who is parodied on South Park has to have some mojo, right?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Handshake My *$#

FIFA's Misguided Plan to Fix Racist Soccer Cultures With More Soccer

What kind of sports event is it when the star athletes are telling fans not to go? Monday, a special report from BBC1's Panorama explored the racism in the soccer cultures of Poland and Ukraine, where the Euro 2012 soccer tournament will be held next week. The program showed Polish and Ukrainian fans beating up Asian fans and slurring opposing teams as "Jews."

The full 30-minute report is full of shocking moments. In Ukraine, there's one scene showing fans making monkey sounds at black players. There's also one where a white supremacist group admits it embraces "some aspects" of Nazism, like getting rid of non-Ukrainians. The group also happens to train its members in knife fighting. Polish slogans include "Jews to the gas" or "death to hook noses." ...

Se the whole story here, courtesy of The Atlantic.

Kicking Back Comments: I have to admit that this is pretty disturbing if true to the extent detailed in the article and BBC video, which I have only seen a couple of short clips of. Again as I said the other day, where is FIFA? There would seem to me many ways to inspect for these acts (i.e. put delegates in the crowd), and ample ways to deal with it (i.e. do not allow these countries to host). So why not do it?

In this, if true, and by allowing it to occur, in my opinion way FIFA is condoning racism by turning a blind eye to it.

Now, what I also found interesting in a disturbing kind of way were a couple of the comments from the readers.

First, from DMG79:
It's UEFA the European football body that organizes the European Championships not FIFA. If you're going to criticize an organization for their decisions at least get the correct organization. FIFA has absolutely no say in the host country for the Euro's and did not select Poland and Ukraine, UEFA did. Don't you fact check?

Why are we passing the buck here? Yes UEFA organizes the tournament (and in my estimation should be doing something as well), but FIFA is the governing body. If FIFA did not want to have the Euros, they would stop UEFA. Look at what they are going to the SFA right now. Do we really think FIFA has no responsibility here?

Second, from LaurelhurstLiberal:
FIFA referees are allowed to stop or cancel games for racist outbursts from fans, we'll see if it happens.

Talk about buck passing. While I'll agree, and the Terry incident demonstrated this, referees need to be aware of such incidents INSIDE THE FIELD and deal with them, only a fool would think a referee would abandon a match for something some pinhead does in section 204, row 7, seat 12, 13, 14, and 15. This is ultimate buck passing to think that a referee is the authority on stopping racism in the stadium.

We are a link in the chain to be sure, but leadership starts at the top.