Thursday, December 26, 2013

Programming Note


Friends,

Over the next several days I am going to be out and about and generally unavailable.

We would like to wish all our readers of Kicking Back a happy, safe, and mindful holiday season.

We'll certainly be back at for a recap for 2013 and into 2014 with some major changes.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Remember ... it's not a forcefield in a can

Referees to use vanishing spray for free kicks at World Cup

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter says the vanishing spray being used to designate distances for free kicks will be used at next year's World Cup in Brazil.

The spray, which was developed in Argentina and Brazil, is currently being used at the Club World Cup in Morocco.

Blatter says ''we started using it in all (our) competitions this year and at the World Cup we will definitely keep on the same path.'' ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of SI.com.

Kicking Back Comments: Referees will still only get 7 - 8 yards per free in my opinion even with the vanishing spray. It will however help with encroachment when the player is running yup to the ball.

I think I am too old school ... I would look to get 11 yards on a free and that way when the players encroached the yard they always do, we were at 10.

I am waiting for a player to grab the can of spray from a referee in dissent and write something inappropriate on the pitch. I've seen it with a caution ... when not the spray.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Is soccer like sex??

Dutch prostitutes demand same pension perks as soccer players

Dutch prostitutes are demanding the same retirement tax benefits as professional footballers because of the "hard physical work" they do, according to news reports.


The campaign to secure better retirement rights is being run by Freya, a company that wants to run a number of brothels in the central Dutch city of Utrecht.

Wil Post, a lawyer for Freya told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Tuesday that "Footballers and prostitutes both do a difficult physical job that they cannot do their whole life. Therefore, they would like to be able to save as much as they can." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of NBC.

Kicking Back Comments: What was interesting to me about this article was the analogy. I know football is demanding and requires "hard physical work" as detailed in the article, but was curious why that was the first arrow out of the quiver to make the argument.

I don't think the intent was to liken the two, albeit both professions are legal in the Netherlands. I also don't know how else to go at the argument ... construction workers ... dock workers ... ship builders ... I dunno.

It may have genuinely been an attempt at flattery as it is clear that soccer players are a treasured class in the Netherlands, as athletes from the "Big 4 Sports" are here in the US.

Either way, it certainly got me to raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Much Better FIFA

FIFA bans Croatian defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches, including Brazil's World Cup, after Nazi chant

Australian-born Croatia defender Josip Simunic will miss the World Cup after being banned for 10 matches by FIFA for his pro-Nazi chants that marred his country's play-off victory over Iceland last month.

Football's world governing body confirmed on Monday that Simunic's ban will start at the World Cup in Brazil, and that he will also be banned from entering the stadium for any of his country's matches. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Age.

Kicking Back Comments: I think FIFA got this one right honestly. What have I been saying about being draconian? From the article:

"Croatia's Football Federation said it was ''shocked'' over FIFA's ''draconian sanction'', warning the move could mean the end of Simunic's career in the national squad."

The CFA is right, it is draconian ... and should be. Yes, it may end this player's career, but will serve as a warning for others to not cross "that" line.

With a player missing the World Cup due to their comments, do we think that others will be so stupid as to try similar? If so, FIFA must now hold the line and deal with each as sternly.

I am sad to say, I think it is the only way.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm a nice guy ... just ask me.

SWISS COURT BANS CARTOON BOOK – BECAUSE ‘IT WOULD DAMAGE BLATTER’S GOOD REPUTATION’

Thin-skinned Sepp Blatter has persuaded a Zurich court to ban a book of jovial cartoons about him.

The power of Blatter to bully Swiss justice officials was revealed when his lawyers wrote to the court insisting that the cartoons, by former footballer and noted graphics artist Ol├ę Andersen, were so damaging that they should issue an immediate ban urgently before actually hearing any arguments from him.

Blatter’s lawyers claimed that he ‘has a good reputation and if the cartoons were published he would never be able to repair the damage.’ ...

See the whole story here (and the court complaint), courtesy of Transparency in Sport.

Kicking Back Comments: Long live the Freedom of Speech and the Press in the US and abroad. I just hope The Platter Cartoons are available in the US soon and I would just love to help 'the cause.'

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Final Tribute

Friends,

As we have shared, Our friend, Ernie Branco, has left us. I'll be honest to say that for the last week I have been remembering the times that he and I have interacted, and the things I learned in the process. Even just last night Madam X and I spoke about this in depth as she too knew Ernie well for nearly a decade.

First time I can recall actually meeting Ernie was in Easton at a youth tournament. I was about 15 at the time I think, and was a very young, and very cocky, grade 8 referee who had all of one other tournament under his belt.

I was there with my dad who had met Ernie before and we were introduced. As the story goes, my dad was pretty unimpressed with me at the time as I was wearing an earring as many at that age did. He was really on me about it saying that the top referees don't wear one, and if I wanted to get there I should not.

Enter Ernie ... literally.

At Oliver Ames High School, where the tournament was held, Ernie was most certainly the most experienced referee there, and was well on his way to becoming one of the very best in the state. When we met, he knew about my dad not liking the earring. His approach was simple though ... he looked me up and down and said something to the effect of, "I like your earring, but the players may not. You may want to take it out, just for the match."

I did, and never wore it again ... inside the field.

It was a beginning to a very long relationship that saw us move from mentor, referees working together, to co-workers, back to a mentor relationship.

State Cup was always a hoot with him. I remember fondly what has come to be known as "The Cornstarch Affair."

I remember him singing happy birthday to Tom Supple and I, along with the Massachusetts FIFA and National Referee core, after a training session in Norton or him calling me "My Boy" at the top of his lungs when he would see me at a clinic.

We spent hours together in his office at BHS talking about MLS matches, and life.

So many times at matches at Foxboro Stadium we saw each other and I relished every interaction. Those were some of the most stressful times in my life, and to get a word of encouragement, or see him at the 4th Official table on the touch line always put me at ease. He was always the last person I spoke to before I went into the field.

Today is the day we say our last goodbye.

Tomorrow and all our tomorrows are when we remember the man and remember his caring and energetic way that lead to a zeal life should always have.

I for one, will miss him terribly.

As detailed earlier a scholarship fund has already been set up in his honor, and can be accessed on line at the EB Scholarship Fund.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our friend, Ernie Branco, has left us

Ernie Branco, September 2013 - Marc Vasconcellos/The Enterprise
The Massachusetts Refereeing community, and the soccer community at large is saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Hernani (Ernie) Branco.

Long time Coach and National Referee Emeritus, he has been a beloved icon in the soccer community for over 40 years.

A mainstay, top referee at the Needham Memorial Day Tournament, since its inception in 1977. Ernie was lauded with the Needham Tournament Distinguished Referee award & the prestigious, Spirit of the Game Award, from the Mass. State Referee Committee an award saved for one of the highest honors a referee can be bestowed within the state.

Ernie served most recently as the MLS liaison to the New England Revolution and made sure that all referees that pass thru those doors were always well taken care of.

Words can not adequately express the loss. For me personally it is devastating as he had touched my life in so many ways as referee, coach, co-worker, friend, and just all round spectacular human being.

Universally, so many others have expressed these similar feelings through all walks in life when experienced with Ernie. Just a few of these expressions can be found in the linked stories.

BROCKTON ENTERPRISE STORY

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE STORY

NEW ENGLAND SOCCER TODAY STORY

STONEHILL ATHLETICS STORY


We mourn his passing here and throughout the refereeing community, and send our deepest sympathies to his family.

Services for Ernie will be held Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th between the hours of 1 - 7PM at the Waitt Funeral Home, 850 North Main Street, Brockton. A funeral mass will be held Monday, December 16th at 9:00AM as St. Edith Stein Church, 71 East Main Street, Brockton.

Ernie's obituary can be found here.

Please note in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Ernie Branco Scholarship Fund, Harbor One Bank.

If mailing a donation be sure to include "Ernie Branco Scholarship Fund" on the memo line of your check and mail to:

Harbor One Bank
Ernie Branco Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 720
Brockton, MA 02303

Monday, December 9, 2013

MLS Cup is over ... Was it the right referee?

The 3rd Yellow - Why Isn't Mark Geiger Refereeing MLS Cup 2013?

Before I get too far into this, I want to make one thing very clear. This is not an article meant to disrespect the officiating crew that was selected for Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS Cup Final this Saturday from Sporting Park.

Hilario Grajeda is also a solid referee, was in the center for the MLS All Star game vs. Roma, and was recently named the MLS Official of the Year, something that he deserved throughout the 2013 MLS season. Ismail Elfath was the runner up for that award (Baldomero Toledo was third), and I like Elfath as well, despite my opinion of his performance in the second leg of the Revs playoff series vs. SKC. Elfath is 31 years old, and has a pretty impressive resume for a referee who made his pro debut in 2009 in the NASL. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of SB Nation.

Kicking Back Comments: First let me say that the crew on Saturday did a great job. So as Jake had stated, the question is not a reflection on them.

There are a couple of points I think he misses on why not Geiger?

I think he touches on the over-exposure point slightly, but not well enough. Over exposure is killer, and can lead to just too much familiarity between teams and a referee. This can reach a fever pitch by the time something as critical as a MLS Cup rolls around.

Second, as was stated, Mark and crew are at the Club World Cup. Lets face it folks this one cuts both ways in the same direction. As a referee on the World Cup "short list" there are matches you have to do, and matches you have to avoid.

There is little doubt in my head that other World Cup prospects were invited by Brian Hall for this tournament, and their absence would mean a death knell to any thought of actually going to a World Cup. Also, lets say that the games did not meet on the calendar and Mark was available ... would it have been a good idea for him to referee the MLS Cup final? I would hope that some folks put some thought into that as a mistake on that match ... which, I'm sorry folks ... does not hold a candle to international play, or even many higher level leagues IMHO ... could kill an opportunity to go to a World Cup as well.

Listen, I'm a fan of Mark just like the author, but, I also recognize that missing a well placed match is not such a bad thing, and in fact may be totally intentional, calendar aside. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

US MNT In Some Trouble in 2014

Full draw results from last night can be found here.

One thing is clear, Group G is the hardest group in the whole draw. Portugal, Germany, Ghana, and the US. My thinking is that Portugal and Germany advance, in that order.

Klinsmann put on a brave face when ask saying "... this is what the World Cup is about."

He's right of course, but even for a talented side is is turning the US into, it's a tall order.

But enough about that ... bring on the referee selection!

Friday, December 6, 2013

See you next year? ... Lame.

World Cup 2022: Fifa to decide on date switch next year

Fifa says a decision over whether to switch the dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be made in December 2014.

Sepp Blatter, the president of football's world governing body, announced in October that a taskforce would look at alternative dates.

That stemmed from concerns over the extreme heat in the Gulf state during the summer months, when temperatures can reach 50C.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter: ''There should be a consultation"

Qatari organisers says they can host the tournament at any time of year.

But the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee added that it would listen to the will of the international football community if a decision to move to a new date is made.

After meeting in Brazil, Fifa's powerful executive committee have announced a "road map" for the consultation process, which is being led by Sheikh Salman - the president of the Asian Football Confederation and a Fifa vice-president ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: This farcical delay is not a surprise as FIFA needs to "study" the process. Here is is ... June is too hot, Winter Olympics in February ... so no go for those ... Looks like November.

I really hope US TV drops them like a bad habit.

Saddest part of the article was here:

"The governing body wants Qatar to provide an update on their progress over the issue (of migrant worker abuse) by March 2014."

Four months away for an update ... when people are dying to build their stadiums ... and they are accepting waiting four months for an update. How very predictable of FIFA.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's all about the pot

World Cup: FIFA reveals pots plan for Friday's tournament draw

FIFA has announced the allocation of pots for Friday's World Cup draw, with England, as expected, unseeded for the tournament in Brazil.

The host nation will join the top seven teams in world football, according to FIFA's official rankings as of October, in Pot 1.

The two unseeded South American sides will join the five African qualifiers in Pot 2, with teams from the Asia, Oceania and CONCACAF regions making up Pot 3. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Sky Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Let the games begin ...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You touch a ref, you get ejected?

So I think this comes down to referees having to get some thicker skin and less "rabbit ears."

This post was inspired by the incident involving Chris Cook of the Minnesota Vikings against their match against da Bears on Sunday December 1st.

An excellent video of the "contact" is here from Bleacher Report.

I think this is a crap call personally ... for a few reasons:
  • Consistent punishment.
Take a look at this article from SB Nation. It has a number of recent events where a player intentionally contacted a referee. When you roll over each .gif take note that only Cook was ejected.

So you mean to tell me Tramon Williams contacted the referee by accident (as he offered). That one was the worst of all when the back judge(?) was pushed out of anger and frustration. Yeah it got a flag, but no ejection there?

We can just get absurd too when Cordarrelle Patterson as part of a touchdown celebration, high fived a referee (again a back judge?). Clearly intentional, and not even a flag. Why was this contact OK, but other were not?
  • "Zero Tolerance" approach
Like I have said many times, I don't like zero tolerance anything because it gives zero latitude for a governing body and eventually requires odd twists in logic to rationalize the actions of punishing one, but not another in a "zero tolerance environment."
  • Referees need to buck up and recognize it is a contact sport
This may be more controversial that most want to hear, but a good bump can be a great wake up call for a referee. Now don't get me wrong a referee is not a pincushion for abuse and should not take any contact that is threatening or puts anyone is real danger. But honestly, a nudge, pull, tug, bump ... give me a break. Yes it is a form of dissent, and as I have said before based on the sport it can be interpreted differently ... but there is some latitude in there.

By way of a personal story:

My very first game as a MLS referee was in San Jose, the Earthquake was playing Colorado. So on either side of the ball I had guys like Eric Wynalda along with Marcel Balboa. Welcome to MLS Pete.

So about 30m in, it was a bit ... tense ... and the teams new I was green, green, green, and took advantage. In one particular spot near midfield, when going for a ball, I got in a passing lane, and Marcel flattened me ... ran right through.

He could have avoided me ... he didn't ... and he knew it. He was sending a message, and I got it.

PK Before his first MLS Match
It would have been insane for me to send him off. Not just because of the fact he was the reason why folks were there, paying to see, but because he wan't trying to do anything more than communicate.

It was a fabulous entrance into MLS honestly. He was saying "If you want to stay, you have to toughen up."

He was right.

I went on to make a few more mistakes in that match and by all rights should have failed the assessment for failing to send a player off for a nasty tackle in front of the benches. 

I did not, but can assure you it was a very long flight home from San Jose.

Now, I have had the displeasure of being assaulted many times, and knocked around a fair amount, and frankly understood it was part of the deal. These touches are not that type of communication. They are a visceral way of saying "come on ref" and not much more.

Now, there is an argument to be made that this small stuff leads to bigger stuff later, and there is truth to that. But the league, any league has to understand that they can legislate all actions of emotional beings and expect an entertaining result. I think allow players, and yes, referees to emote in this way is a good thing.

It can of course get out of hand as it did below:



Then again, you don't even need physical contact for something to get out of control.
Viewer warning of explicit language. Note, not a hand was placed on this umpire by the manager.



You want to referee in the bigs boys and girls ... you have to be able to take a little grab now and then.
Deal with it without resorting to throwing a piece of brightly cloth, or showing a piece of plastic.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Send in the lawyers



Sports Law Practice Launched To Take Advantage Of 2022 FIFA World Cup And Other Middle Eastern Opportunities

The FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar is still 9 years away. However, based on the recent flurry of attention paid to the future event and its hosting country, one may think the eventual event is fast approaching. There are concerns about the living and working conditions for migrant workers commissioned to develop the country’s infrastructure in advance of the 2022 World Cup and less-serious discussions concerning the contemplated design of the future stadium that will host the games. Lawyers are typically called upon in periods of controversy, and it is largely based on the increased scrutiny attached to Qatar along with an anticipated massive investment in the country’s infrastructure (one estimate obtained by FORBES states that the total cost is expected to reach $220 billion by the time the 2012 FIFA World Cup takes place). ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Forbes.

Kicking Back Comments: This is really fascinating to me actually. Now on the surface this would seem a bit transitory, or at least a significant hedge of a "post World Cup" effect ... which is very real. Take a look at US history for an example. In 1994 the World Cup was played here, a deal made with FIFA in 1988 that the US would have a viable professional league. In 1996 MLS launched, and by many accounts is still going strong. Hard to believe it will be 20 years soon.

Now for Al Tamimi & Company to set up a firm dedicated to such matters is interesting, but would seem speculative on only a World Cup ... there is this however:

"However, there are additional promising signs including but not limited to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report that pits the Middle East as a prime emerging sports market worth in excess of $40 billion based on annual revenues and with an estimated growth rate of 4.6% (sponsorship being identified as one of the fastest growing segments). The time may be ripe for a specialized Sports Law practice."

Yeah, that's Billion with a "B" ...

It's a fascinating prospect honestly. It also makes me wonder if FIFA will use their services to act as their "strong arm" in the "FIFA Courts" that will be set up in the region as well.

Either way, it's good business.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another Example of FIFA Condoning Racism?



FIFA Wants Tougher Actions Against Racism In Soccer, But Reportedly Rejects Black Couple In Brazil

This week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he was “sickened” to hear supporters of Spanish soccer club Real Betis racially abuse their own player. TV footage recently released shows Betis fans appearing to make racist gestures and noises at defender Paulo, a Brazilian player who is black, as he left the field after a loss to city rival Sevilla.

On his official Twitter account, Blatter publicly condemned the incident and stated that it was “nonsense to fight racism with fines,” a practice that has long been used by FIFA. “This has to be tackled by ALL competition organizers,” he added. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Forbes.

Kicking Back Comments: What's funny of course is in the update at the bottom of the article, FIFA is quick, very quick, to blame the organizer of the event, and shed FIFA of any responsibility whatsoever.

This of course is laughable that FIFA ceded any control, but is a far cry from racism either.

There is an interesting question lurking around here though ... Should FIFA have intentionally chosen the couple of African descent to show "FIFA is not racist?"

Isn't that racism defined, to prejudice a decision based on race? (Some call this reverse racism, to me it is just racism)

FIFA is honestly in a no win situation here, where if they go out of their way to accommodate the couple of African descent, they are pandering. If they accommodate the couple of European descent, they are racist.

So where do you go with that?

Maybe you do give up complete control to an independent selection committee, state same publicly before hand, and go from there. Or possibly be public about the selection criteria, such as independent polls or popularity scores ... whatever you use ... just be objective and public ...

FIFA by opting for any type of "quota" system, as the article describes Brazil doing, may do more harm than good.


This one is a lot harder than the article gives it credit for. What is NOT hard however is how FIFA should respond to actual racism, a video if which is linked to the article. As I have said in the past ... be draconian. Don't just fine people who have the money ... or if you do, make it really hurt.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Official FIFA Apps Announcement ... But Stay for the Comments

FIFA launches official apps for iOS and Android

With the 2014 World Cup Final Draw only days away, FIFA has launched official apps for both iOS and Android. Available now, the app provides live score updates for "85 of the world’s top leagues" (including MLS in the United States) according to FIFA. Thankfully it offers news, standings, statistics, and photos / video for even more teams: in total, 197 leagues across the globe are included. Users can expect news on "hundreds of competitions, thousands of goals and over a million minutes of football every single week," FIFA says. ...

See the whole announcement here, courtesy of The Verge.

Kicking Back Comments: Yawn. No surprise on this. This app is mediocre at best right now.

What is spectacular however, are the comments in response to the article. My favorite is below. I have never seen a coach go Super Saiyan before ... plenty of players and even a referee or two. Never a coach.

Some priceless stuff in there worth looking at.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Professional Referee Organization names Hilario Grajeda referee for MLS Cup

Professional Referee Organization names Hilario Grajeda referee for MLS Cup

On Sunday night, we learned who will play in MLS Cup. On Monday morning, we learned who will referee the league's marquee match.

The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) announced that Hilario Grajeda will referee Dec. 7's final between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park, with Ismail Elfath as the fourth official and Paul Scott and Bill Bittmar patrolling the sidelines. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLSSoccer.com.

Kicking Back Comments: This is a bit of a "dark horse" assignment for me. Not because the crew is not deserving ... or "getting a shot," But more because Hilario referees the All Star Game this year.

Assignments (in all walks of life) are sometimes "political treats" given to some who are from a particular place, or have done particular favors for others. Also, and frankly, it is hard to pick from so many good folks ... or in other contexts ... equally skilled folks. So what can happen is the folks who decide, go with who they know best, which is often someone close to home.

This is true in life folks, and is certainly not limited to soccer.

But, I don't think this is the case here honestly ... in fact MLS and PRO have seen to go the other direction to a pure meritocracy for the referee by assigning Hilario to both matches.

Selection of Bill Ditmar to the final I think is terrific as well. He is a class referee who I have enjoyed working with several times and certainly did well this year in a field of very talented ARs and he too worked the All Star Game this year. Also, while I have not watched Paul, I genuinely have to believe that he falls in to the same paradigm detailed above.  

Finally, I am truly happy for Ismail. Being a 4th official on a Professional League final is an awesome responsibility that I can attest to personally. As a young professional referees, I am certain it is an event he will never forget in his life.

Best Black Friday Ad EVER!

So for any who follow me regularly, I am a huge advocate of Skratch Labs, not just because they have, in my opinion, THE BEST sports hydration mix on the planet, and (2) tremendous cookbooks that have a great take on sports nutrition, but because of how they choose to run their company.

Excellent products, on time delivery, personal, handwritten notes, a great sense of humor, and a sane approach about life are just some of the hallmarks of why I believe they are tremendous.

An outstanding example came when I went to their site on Friday ... saw that it was closed ... and was treated to the following ad for Black Friday ... just tremendous ... and a shining example of why I will continue to use Skratch Labs.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tragedy Strikes 2014 World Cup

Two die in Brazil World Cup stadium accident

Two people have died in an accident at Sao Paulo's stadium, which is due to host the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup finals, police say.

A senior local fire official said crews were called to the Arena Corinthians after reports of a collapsed crane.

It fell on top of a metal structure, destroying part of a facade.

The arena was due to be completed at the end of December to meet a Fifa deadline. Brazil has admitted it is struggling to have all 12 venues ready. ...

See the whole story here, from the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: While I have absolutely no evidence, it is my personal feeling that pressure from FIFA, and the Brazilian government themselves was part of the cause of this catastrophe that took the lives of (2) men. It would not be the first time for such an event. Another notable one can be found here.

Our deepest sympathies to the families of those killed.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You Readers!

Friends,

As today is Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to take just a second and say Thank You to the readers of Kicking Back. From humble beginnings back in 2010, we find ourselves here today with hundreds of thousands of views grumbling about a variety of stuff, and every once in a while coming up with something somewhat perplexing.

We can't do it without you, so please accept our humble thanks for your readership. After all, it's what makes Kicking Back go.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Just Doing My Job

It's Every Fan's Job to Police FIFA and the Olympics Committee

Neither World Cup nor Olympics authorities seem to mind Qatar's and Russia's human rights violations, so it's up to consumers, players, and sponsors to take action themselves.

Ever since FIFA, the global soccer governing body/alleged cesspool of corruption, appointed Qatar the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, the association has repeatedly found itself on the defensive: It has vociferously rejected widespread allegations of vote-buying by the Middle Eastern nation, and it has turned a blind eye to criticism of Qatar's antediluvian views on homosexuality. Most recently, the country revealed its planned "gay test" for players and fans during the World Cup, which reportedly could include a forced penile plethysmography test or forced anal examinations. But even more damning news came November 17, when Amnesty International released a report that's sobering, by any measure: The 2022 World Cup venue, it reveals, is being built with slave labor. ...

See the whole story here, from the Atlantic.

Kicking Back Comments: There are times when I agree with Mr. Simpson, and times that I don't. But boy howdy I am with him here ... and not.

I am in firm agreement that FIFA and to a degree the IOC are entities to make money ... and I think that's fine personally. Let's face it, sport is business and folks have been making a buck on it for years, nothing wrong with that given the amount of work that goes into managing, hosting, and promoting such an event.

Now, where I get off the bus is when an organization, like FIFA, "For the good of the game" knowingly engage in activity, or condone activity they are aware of that is illegal, immoral, or otherwise repugnant to the values they espouse for their own personal benefit.

I was shocked ... honestly ... when the link to the above article spoke of a new "gay test" for players and fans for the 2022 World Cup coming into Qatar. FIFA knows this, yet has not condemned it in its most basic terms despite receiving pressure, and having an ability to "implement their own law."

After all, this behavior is in direct conflict with FIFA Statute, Article 3 which states in whole:
"Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion."

Seems pretty clear to me FIFA should not engage or at least sanction Qatar for such ... or as they have done in World Cups past, suspend sovereign law.

For regular readers, some may cry FOUL! as I am suggesting FIFA suspend the sovereign law of Qatar, as they are able to do, to prevent any such abuses. I suggested the same for the 2014 World Cup when it came to the "Great Beer Row" for FIFA leave the people of Brazil to make their own laws without impediment by FIFA to appease a sponsor.

So why the reversal on my part ... or at least the clear inconsistency?

Because there is a whopping difference between suspending a law to appease a sponsor and curtail a legitimate safety concern (of drunk fan(atics)), and suspending a law to prevent discrimination against another human when harm may come to them due to that law.

Yes, I am playing the hypocrite again ... although at times I would prefer to be seen as debating the Prime Directive.



In all events, for us common folks to rail against FIFA and the IOC for such is a reasonable activity to remind them they can't suspend their principles to make a buck, and even worse, as in the case of FIFA, pretend to be doing what is right.

This constant drumming, I would hope, get the notice of the World Cup sponsors. While they made some noise back in 2011 during the claims of corruption, led by Adidas, it also seems the buck is trumping as that same company signed a partnership with FIFA until 2030.

It makes me wonder ... what is it going to take ...

Monday, November 25, 2013

MLS Cup ... almost set

MLS Cup final matchup set: Sporting KC to host Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park on Dec. 7

After four weeks of MLS Cup Playoff action, we now know the two clubs that will contend for the MLS title on December 7: Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake.
WATCH: MLS Cup final, Dec. 7, 4 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas, TSN2, RDS

The 18th edition of the MLS Cup will hosted by Sporting KC at Sporting Park, in Kansas City, Kan. SKC host due to their superior regular-season record .

Sporting KC earned their berth in the final after coming back to beat the Houston Dynamo, 2-1, on Saturday night in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. The two sides played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg. ...

See the whole story here on MLS Soccer.com.

Kicking Back Comments: Any bets for who the referees will be in 2013? Here is who has worked it in all time history. My money is on some "dark horses" this year ... but we will see.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's all Qutar's fault now?

FIFA slams Qatar over labor issues

Pressure on Qatar to improve the labor conditions for migrant workers building 2022 World Cup projects increased on Wednesday with FIFA president Sepp Blatter describing the situation as unacceptable.

FIFA issued a statement after Blatter met International Trade Union Confederation president Michael Sommer and agreed that ''fair working conditions must be introduced quickly, consistently and on a sustained basis in Qatar.'' ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: While I agree that Qatar allows the practices, FIFA needs to intervene ... and is. Sepp has named Dr. Theo Zwanziger to take "concrete action" on the matter. An interesting choice to say the least.

Well, I'm not sure of this is a good thing for the Dr. as he was very, very vocal about playing 2022 in Qatar in the first place. 

A chance to clean things up, or maybe punishment for opposing Sepp.

Et tu, Brute?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FIFA should be appalled

Fifa must address abuse of 2022 World Cup workers in Qatar, Amnesty says

Fifa, international football’s governing body, must urgently address Qatar’s exploitation of migrant workers that has become “routine and widespread”, a new report warns.

Amnesty International has confirmed accounts of thousands of migrants trapped inside labour camps having been “deceived” into joining the country’s construction frenzy ahead of the 2022 World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Independent.

Kicking Back Comments: For those who have the time, I strongly urge you to read the Amnesty International report here (pdf). It is dense at 167 pages, but very well done in documenting the crimes being done to these migrant workers.

FIFA's response (on page 167) from the Secretary General (Valcke) [I guess it didn't even get Sepp's attention] was pathetic ... basically saying ... thanks for the info ... we take human rights seriously ... we are busy with 2014 and 2018 right now ... but promise to talk with the host nation soon to sort this all out.

I'm serious, read the letter on p. 167 ...

Fortunately the host countries letter (immediately before FIFA's completely inadequate response) was much more thorough it its reply.

If you don't have time for the whole read, at least take a peek at pp. 17 - 30 for one company's practices.

I was recently asked why I have such a axe to grind with FIFA. Was it because I never made the list? Was it because I was bitter in finishing my career? Was it for some other yet unexplained reason?

While none of those ... I simply said that FIFA has the ability to do so much good if they really wanted to. Here is a case they can make a real difference in the lives of these migrant workers and get between the host committee and the workers and say NO MORE.

Qatar is the richest country per capita on the planet earth ... FIFA is among the most influential organizations in the sporting world and in not too long from now are going to make BILLIONS on a World Cup held there ... people can't look at me with a straight face and say that his highness Sepp (not the Emir of Qatar) is powerless to do anything meaningful?

Yep, he visited Qatar in early November and pledged and promised ... as people are dying in building stadia to line his pockets.

I don't like FIFA because it has lost its way from being an ambassador of good will for the world, to being an ATM machine for a very few.

For that it should be appalled ... at least the good people there ... my fear is they are not.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fabulous Story from NRAH

Blog purveyor extraordinaire, Paul Levy, shares a great story regarding how a referee can really ruin a moment if they let the LOTG and a lack of common sense get in the way.

Check out Paul's story, Sportsmanship Supreme, at his blog, Not Running A Hospital.

It is a classic!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Standing Room Only?

Court battle could delay delivery of WCup stadium

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazil risks missing the deadline for the delivery of its World Cup stadiums because of a court battle over the supplier of seats for Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba.

FIFA wants all 12 stadiums completed by December, but Arena Pantanal may not be ready because of the legal dispute involving two companies.

One of the companies has asked a judge to void the bidding process that awarded its rival the right to provide the seats, which are already being installed. If the judge accepts the request, work at the 44,000-seat stadium in the wetlands may have to be halted with less than two months left before the FIFA deadline. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Sacramento Bee.

Kicking Back Comments: Why in the 11th hour is it now a surprise? Did the supplier (who has supplied seats before to a WC venue) think that something had changed. FIFA I am certain has been clear about the dates it wanted these ready (as unrealistic as they may have been).

Then again, none of that really matters as seats will appear magically at the very last minute and be installed by the attorney working the matter himself if I read the article somewhat tongue in cheek.

After all, it has to get done, because there is no Plan B:
"Despite saying it will not accept delays in the remaining six World Cup stadiums under construction, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has said there is no Plan B regarding the venues and none will be replaced or excluded. He said changes can't be made now because tickets have already been sold."

Great planning guys ... well done.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

FIFA: The price of racism is $38K

FIFA fines Croatia, Greece over fan racism

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA has warned and fined World Cup playoffs teams Croatia and Greece for fans' racist behavior at qualifying matches last month.

FIFA announced the sanctions Saturday but did not order full or partial stadium closures for the playoff matches starting next week.

FIFA fined the Croatia Football Federation 35,000 Swiss francs ($38,000) for incidents during its 2-1 loss against Belgium in Zagreb on Oct. 11. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: I've said it before, and I'll say it again here ...

FIFA, for this topic, be draconian ... shutter the stadiums. Fining a club or national association $38K does nothing, and is not punitive in any way.

You want folks to take you seriously, take the topic seriously, please.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FIFA Goal of the Year in 2013 ... Have your say now

Just go here to the FIFA You Tube Channel and have a look, and vote.

I have to give credit to FIFA here as there were a couple in there they had to dig deep for, and was wiling to put them up to vote on. In other words, not every goal here is from a mens international or club match. While I expect such a goal to carry the day, it was refreshing to see something else too.

They are all spectacular however.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You Veterans

Kicking Back thanks the veterans of all branches and nationalities for their service and sacrifice.

A sobering article of how every day should be Veterans day can be found here, from the NY Post.

I for one agree.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

True Class

Coach Steve Bonastia: Seckman High

Imperial, Missouri: As soon as the ball was hit, Seckman (Imperial, Mo.) High School softball coach Steve Bonastia knew his team had just given up a tie-breaking two-run home run.

And he knew that with the game being in the fifth inning, there wasn’t much time left and his team was likely in line for a loss. What he didn’t know, though, was that the umpires – all of them – had seen the ball differently and ruled that the ball bounced over the fence. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Good In Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: This story touched me on several levels. First was the fact that a coach was willing to truly correct an error that was made by a referee ... and I don't mean the type that we usually face from a coach, without regard to the actual decision, advocates for their team ... as they should.

This was the story of a team of referees who made a mistake, and a coach, to his and his teams detriment, offered a correction.

Now I say offered here, as the refereeing crew was certainly under no obligation to accept the information. Which lead me to the second touch point ... they did.

How willing are we are referees to overturn a decision to "get it right?" Are we even willing to do that? Some are not and don't even consider it at all. Some may be too easy and at the slightest bit of resistance, reverse a decision.

What about the magnitude of the play ... a lot of time is spent on incidents that result in scoring, which is the whole reason we are using GLT now. But what about the other decision that lead up to it? The penalty that was not given, the ineligible substitution that was made, a foul at midfield that prevented an attack from developing?

Where is the line that we should accept, and act on, such advise?

My friends, it is a slippery slope, and can come down to one word ... fingerspitzengef├╝hl.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hat Tip to FIFA

FIFA completes first-ever development course in South Sudan

Eighteen months after South Sudan became FIFA’s 209th member association, a programme for top referees and assistant referees in the country finished in Juba on Thursday. It was FIFA’s maiden development course in South Sudan.

Thirty participants – 28 male and two female – from all over South Sudan gathered in the country’s largest city for the five-day programme, which aimed at upgrading the theoretical and practical knowledge of referees and assistants referees on the interpretation of the laws of the game. The course was opened by the President of the South Sudan Football Association, Chabur Goc Alei, and it sparked great attention from the local media. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: As I have said before, FIFA has a great opportunity to do some real good in the world. Here is another case that they truly have.

What I found interesting is that FIFA wanted no time in telling us that they have spent $426+ million over the last 13 years for Africa. This is not surprising as an article of this type should tell us that, as it is truly significant.

Where I get suspicious is how much is lining the pockets of officials (which I recognize is also a "legitimate" way to do business), and not going toward the end goal of helping the people of Africa. With a number that large however (Almost half a Billion dollars), you figure some significant amount is getting through.

For the goal of getting The Game, and help to Africa however, all credit where credit is due.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Opinion on "Participation Trophies"

Earning It

About this time every high school soccer season, I'd begin thinking about the awards that we coaches would give our players at our season ending get-together.

I had a tradition that, every other season, I would find a toy, token, or object that fit each player and her abilities, attitudes, or interests. Sometimes they would be obvious, sometimes not. They were always meant to be fun, even if they were occasionally a little ambiguously mean.

The superstitious player who wouldn't abandon her soccer boots at the end of the season, choosing to use duck tape on them instead, received a big roll of tape for the next year. The elegant winger who ran like a colt and cursed like a sailor was given a Princess Leia doll with a tiny bar of soap in her mouth. The player who consistently "forgot" to bring her running shoes to practice got another pair of her very own for the next season. ...

See the whole story here, from Keeping Score

Kicking Back Comments: This is a great story, and one I happen to agree with (as I picked up Little Ms. from her last soccer match on Saturday with her new ribbon she received).

I know that it has been said that 80% of life is showing up ... and there are times I agree with that philosophy ... but I also happen to believe that luck is the residue of hard work.

To just show up and get rewarded for it seems a bit vapid for some things. Work as an example ... now I appreciate service awards as I happen to be a recipient of a 10 year award the other day ... but a "thanks for showing up to work" award seems weird to me.

Youth soccer is kinda the same to me ... a "thanks for playing" award? Just odd.

That said, I believe there should be NO awards at those levels. Just come out and play ... and love it. That is the reward ... not a piece of plastic. How are folks inspired to do their best for that?

Then again ... shouldn't that inspiration to excel come from within? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Want to see how this went?

As usual @dutchreferee does not disappoint with his questions on Twitter. 


I certainly took the time to answer there ... which apparently brought a few laughs?

It's a good question though ... what are folks doing for their "retirement" from refereeing?

I have my answer ... what's yours?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just read the commnents

Referee Mark Geiger among PRO crew selected to officiate FIFA Club World Cup next month

Major League Soccer will have a presence at next month's FIFA Club World Cup after all. Sort of.

A three-man crew from the Professional Referee Organization — the governing arm that oversees officiating at the professional level in the United States and Canada — has been selected to officiate matches at the international club championship, PRO announced on Monday.

Referee Mark Geiger (above) and assistant referees Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher were selected to take part in the event, which takes place Dec. 11-21 in Morocco. The crew, which worked in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2011 and the Olympic Games in England in 2012, will be one of five officiating crews at the annual knockout tournament. ...

See the whole story here, on MLSSoccer.com.

Kicking Back Comments: This is a fabulous assignment for these guys and one that is well deserved. What was funny to me was the comments to the story, that (as of this writing) were solely positive toward Mark ... as they should be.

Generally however, when a referee is the subject, it does not generally go that way.

High marks for the "public at large" to appreciate Mark for his skill as a referee.

Monday, November 4, 2013

What a faker ...

So as I have whined here before several times, football referees are employed often to be drama critics of players taking dives ... and feigning injuries. Here are some highlights:



That last one looked like a fire safety video for "Stop, Drop, and Roll."

Well over this weekend there were a couple of college (gridiron) football matches that seemed to have some faking of injuries ... which similar to football ... serves to stop momentum of a team, and even in some cases preserve "timeouts" which are limited.

In the NFL however things have been interesting. There was a rash of such incidents of feigning injuries, one of which that was particularly blatant can be seen here.

So in 2013, the NFL came out and tried to put the clamps down on such activities by sending out a preseason memo saying the league would not stand for it. Only problem, it has backfired totally as there have been several players who have been actually really hurt, yet were "under investigation" from the NFL as if they had feigned the injury. See here, here, and from Dead Spin, here.

All credit to the NFL for taking the pressure off their referees and have the league do the work. We however have to judge for ourselves if a player is feigning or not.

Now, BE CAREFUL, as getting this one wrong can be costly. There are very few of us out there who are trained physicians or similarly skilled to diagnose an injury, so honestly, we shouldn't ... and even if an MD you can not discharge both duties at the same time.

There are times we have to take some things on faith, call a trainer (who may be in on the game) and get a player the attention they need ... or at least act like they need.

Now at any level except professional or international, getting help should be AUTOMATIC, and even in some cases for pros and internationals it should be automatic (e.g. head injuries). There is very little wiggle room for judging injuries wrongly ... as the NFL is discovering.

So make it easy on yourself ... and don't judge ... just get the trainer.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Simpsons?

Soccer News: “The Simpsons” And Soccer - The Beautiful Game Goes American Main Stream

After twenty-five years of the famed The SIMPSONS, this ultra popular show embraces soccer with a celebration inspired by the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

The 25th Season of THE SIMPSONS Kicks Off with an Episode Inspired By the FIFA World Cup™ from FOX Broadcasting Company. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Soccer Nation.

Kicking Back Comments: I am looking forward to this episode  but this is not the first time that The Simpsons has incorporated The Game into a story line. I recall an episode called The Cartridge Family where Homer and family go to a match, and start a riot ... classic Simpsons.

A horribly taken video shows the scene below ... funny stuff. I'm sure Homer living the life of a FIFA referee will be classic too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Angry Birds ... AR Version

It's not this angry bird ...


It is however an angry bird attacking an Assistant Referee during a match:



Check out the whole thing here, courtesy of dutchreferee.com.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sepp, you have failed ...

Sepp Blatter: Fifa president calls for zero tolerance towards racism

Fifa president Sepp Blatter says football's world governing body will "have failed" if it does not adopt a zero tolerance approach to racism.

Uefa opened a disciplinary case against CSKA Moscow this week after Manchester City's Yaya Toure complained of being racially abused by their fans.

Blatter said: "If we are not able to go zero tolerance, we have failed." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: Sepp, you have failed. You farmed out this serious issue to a committee lead by Jeffrey Webb who is asking why there are not more managers of color in the UK, when another serious racial incident occurred (and Platini started to blame the referee!) ... Sorry folks I called this one in 10 Matches is not enough.

Sepp you have failed, in failing to follow through on your words of points reductions, suspensions, or relegations for racists.

Sepp you have failed, in actually thinking that a handshake is a cure for racism.

Sepp you have failed, in bolstering a simple (5) match ban for racism. Are you serious? We are still at (5) matches?

Sepp you have failed, to not take a proverbial hammer to these people, and expel them, forever. You want to make an impression, suspend the next player guilty of this behavior for all eternity with no opportunity for a reprieve. You will get everyones attention, and get wide support for it.

Sepp, you have failed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's about time ...

Majority-woman crew officiates Division II football game in apparent first for NCAA

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The officials sprinted around the field keeping order, throwing flags and even telling the Miles College band to hush once.

It was a typical college football game Thursday night except that four of the seven people wearing the black-and-white stripes were women. ...

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

Kicking Back Comments: Stepping into a situation generally dominated by another group is hard. By all accounts these ladies did very well. It would be stunning to see a woman in the NFL. I think it would be good for the boys and certainly challenge their perspective.

There is one disadvantage that I see however ... particularly with football ...

I believe (truly) that it should be compulsory for a referee to have played the sport that they will now officiate. It does not have to be at the same level (in fact in many cases it likely can not be as there is nearly an equal time spent "making the pro's" as a referee as it is as a player) but at a level where a referee can develop a sense of specific empathy for a competing player. 

For me it was easy. I played from age 5 on straight through to college ... and even after in far more limited circumstances. It help me develop a sense of empathy that I carried forward throughout my career.

My concern with the ladies in football is the same. Some may have certainly played full contact, and good on them for doing so. Some however may not have, and leaves open the possibility for a criticism of these referees that may be justified.

Please note, I believe this is true at the highest levels of the respective game, al la, MLS, NFL, NHL, NBA, and their respective farm teams.

I don't believe this is necessarily the case in some sports even at the collegiate level, and certainly not any level below that. Refereeing should not be reserved for "former players only." 

But I do believe that former players have a slant as a referee that others do not, that helps them manage the highest level player better than those who do not have that experience.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Maybe David Lee Roth ...

Tim Roth to play Fifa president Sepp Blatter on film

British actor Tim Roth is to star as Fifa president Sepp Blatter in a film about football's governing body.

Provisionally titled F2014, Gerard Depardieu will also appear in the movie as Jules Rimet - one of Fifa's founders and its longest-serving president. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: Don't get me wrong, Tim Roth is a very talented actor indeed and I am sure will portrait Sepp better than the real Sepp could ever hope for.

What I found funny in the article was that the real Sepp found some "similarities" to Tim Roth in real life, to which I had to think that the real Sepp was more akin to David Lee Roth's character in the below video, not the distinguished actor Tim Roth.

What's that about art imitating life ... or something like that?

Sepp TV indeed.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In their own words

So the other day I wrote about the umpire crew in Game 1 of the World Series getting it right in the 1st inning, in "We have to get it right ... ."

Well as if on cue, we have this article, from Masslive.com, that goes into a bit more depth and has direct quotes from the crew and MLB director of operations.

A fascinating look as to how it happened, and how they worked together to correct it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

My definition of insanity is ...

Sepp Blatter: Fifa president hints at increased term

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has given his strongest hint yet that he plans to stay on in the role past 2015 and finish "his mission".

The 77-year-old Swiss, head of the world governing body since 1998, also wants to increase the term for a president from four years to eight. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: I am a fan of term limits personally. Even in cases where the leadership is exceptional, and remains so, there is a need to build a "bench" to allow others to be ready to take the reigns when the term naturally expires.

In the case of a leader who is not performing, term limits clearly help to minimize issues that are created by a failure of leadership ... which I believe is the case here.

While good in principle, age limits on FIFA referees serve the same purpose where particular physical prowess is required to manage matches at the international level. The issue becomes in my opinion, that I think the window is a bit too small currently. Optimally a term window allows the leader to learn, grow, and become optimally effective in the role. In the case of the FIFA referee, with mandatory retirement at 45, I believe one skill set just coming to play, that of life experience to manage the international player.

I would opine this skill set is just coming around at age 42 - 48, and at a time when physical fitness does not diminish significantly ... and I mean statistically significantly based on published reports ... to effect the performance. So while the head of FIFA has overstayed his welcome, I think their refereeing core is being cut short just a bit too early.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"We have to get it right ..."

Was the mantra of members of the World Series umpiring crew, after an initial incorrect call in the 1st inning at 2nd base, which was soon overturned by a huddle from the crew ...

In this case the manager was mic'ed up and you can hear the umpire crew clearly saying "We have to get it right ..."

The game received justice as a result as Napoli then hit into the gap for a double, clearing the bases in the process and allowing a team that was penalized, to not be. Correctness won over pride, or even tradition.

Kudos for the crew for this. We should all aspire to this "get it right" behavior for every match we do.

You can see the whole article, and video here, from CBS Sports.

... and as a post script ... there was no instant replay used folks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Professional Courtesy Goes a Long Way

I have to say after watch Games 5 and 6 of the ALCS, being a MLB catcher looks like no fun at all. Here is one view why:



Ouch.

Avila would eventually leave Game 5 due to this collision with a knee injury, but return for Game 6.

Game 6 was not much fun for Avila either as besides the Tigers losing the game to put the Red Sox in the World Series, he took a wicked hit from a foul tip right in the mask. It is what happened just before and just after that got my attention though.

Immediately before the mask cracking foul tip, home plate umpire Dan Iassogna to start the inning cleaned home plate as they typically do. Well only a few pitches later, Avila was hit and clearly stunned by the foul ball. It was obvious on the video as he swayed back and fourth and went to his knees for a second.

No doubt Iassogna was concerned as you could almost make out the two talking through their masks. Now, to save the embarrassment of a trainer coming out, Iassogna himself stalled the game to give Avila a few extra moments to collect himself ... by cleaning an already clean home plate.

There was no reason for Iassogna to do this except as a professional courtesy to Avila to give him an extra second.

It to me highlighted the special relationship home plate umpires and catchers share throughout a game as so much of the game is decided right there between those guys.

It was really cool actually, and makes me wish catchers and home plate umpires were mic'ed up ... well ... maybe not after seeing this (explicit language warning ... it is funny though and highlights different traditions in different games):

Monday, October 21, 2013

Finally a good case for instant replay ...

Of course it is in Snooker =)



This does highlight however a great interaction between a player and a referee, and while a mistake was made, shows that everyone can have a sense of humor about it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Touche

You have to love a referee with a sense of humor.

Here is a classic!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Super Romario to the Rescue!

Romario launches another FIFA attack

Brazilian congressman and former soccer star Romario has launched another attack against FIFA, calling president Sepp Blatter ''a thief'' and secretary general Jerome Valcke ''a blackmailer.''

The comments from the former Brazil striker came at congressional hearing promoted by a tourism and sports commission on Tuesday.

He continued his attack against Valcke with a post published on his website on Wednesday, saying the FIFA official isn't the ''best person to do business'' with Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: Still waiting for FIFA to "officially" comment on this one.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Requiescat In Pace Blue

Veteran MLB umpire Bell, 48, dies of heart attack

NL crew member's resume includes one World Series, three All-Star Games

LOS ANGELES -- There was only one umpiring crew working Monday night when word of Wally Bell's death circulated, which made the ensuing hours very difficult, especially for six members of a very tight umpiring fraternity.

Bell, a veteran umpire with 21 years of Major League experience, reportedly suffered a massive heart attack on Monday in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. He was 48.

Crew chief Gerry Davis was informed of the news about an hour before first pitch of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and Cardinals in Los Angeles. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLB.com.

Kicking Back Comments: A very sad day for his family, blood and refereeing, and indeed for us all. Today we all bleed blue.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You have to hide your bias ...

Has everyone seen this by now? It is Torii Hunter going ass over tea kettle in front of Boston PD detail officer Ken Horgan in the ALCS game 2, where Big Papi hit the ball out of Fenway in the bottom of the 8th to tie Detroit 5 - 5, and allow the Sawks to go on for the win.

What's wrong with this picture though?

Photo courtesy Boston.com.
Take a look at the reaction of Officer Horgan as Hunter is in a dangerous free fall over the bull pen wall. There are two points here.

  1. As referees we are there to help both sides, and it would seem that Hunter was in the need for some help to make sure he did not get seriously hurt. Officer Horgan is more focused on celebrating than on helping. At the very least, helping to contain a possible injury.
  2. Based on the reaction alone, it is clear where the bias is. If I were a Detroit fan at Fenway that night, do you think I would get a "fair shake" if an incident occurred with a group of Boston fans given the bias on display here?

So let me pan back and say that I am fairly sure the Officer helped sort out the scene in the picture and without question would have helped of something went seriously wrong. Also, I would opine if a Detroit fan was smack in the middle of all of this, the Officer would do the "smart" thing and simply escort the Detroit fan out. I don't believe Officer Horgan would ever do anything in derogation of his duty.

After all, he was just reacting to a truly historic event as any human would.

Referees can't do this however.

Imagine, just imagine, even if youth soccer somewhere if a referee reacted to a home town goal in such a fashion even if an even as dramatic (on a youth soccer scale) as this one.

Can you see the fallout?

Can you hear the fan(atics)?

Do you think the referee will work that league again?

It's hard ... really hard sometimes to suppress any bias or personal feelings about matches we are refereeing. Most of us are fans too and have to deny ourselves that side of things when we are out there ... and if at the professional and international level ... suppress these feelings in public too.

It sounds sad, and a touch unhealthy honestly ... but the contrary result is shown above, where just a moment of well intentioned emotion can crumble a career for a referee.

It has long lasting effects too. Recently I was at a Revolution match and was asked who my favorite team was. I really had to struggle to think and could not come up with any. When asked why not, I answered that I had been a referee so long that I saw The Game through an (almost) purely neutral eye, and while appreciating the skill of particular players, it did not reach an emotional level for me.

Granted it is a little odd, and Jr. still "doesn't get it." That's OK too as I want him to love The Game in all its glory and feel those moments that just want to make you throw your hands up and scream.

Don't feel too bad for me though, I spend my days yelling at the TV when the Boston Bruins are on.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Upgrade?

During a recent clinic I presented at, we asked for anonymous feedback from the group which included some open response questions, where the person giving the feedback could literally type anything they wanted relevant or not.

One thing that stood out in more than a few cases, was the request for information specific to "... lower levels of competition." Due to the fact that "... I don't want to upgrade at all ... ."

I was struck by this feedback as it had never really occurred to me that some people are content at the refereeing level that they are currently at, and don't want to progress any further.

In my (ever growing administrative) experience the "upgrade question" is a one that is either asked often by an individual, or not at all. Only in very few cases have I seen a middle ground where an individual chooses to upgrade through the referee ranks, then changes course and does not. I have also seen a converse path as well albeit less often where a referee does not want to upgrade, and later chooses to.

While I appreciate the desire to remain at a level an individual is comfortable with, I also grow very concerned that folks in these positions get "stale" and may be doing themselves, and others a disservice by deciding not to upgrade.

Then again, there is something to be said for servicing The Game at the level one feels best equipped to, and (this is a hard truth for some too), there are very limited resources and matches at the highest levels to go around ... so why try?

These are fair points ... and I am wading into these waters not from a refereeing perspective honestly as my day is here and gone for upgrading. I can go no further than I have. I am asking from another perspective ... as a cyclist.

So on 14-OCT-13 I will be racing in the Jamestown Classic, and event that captured my imagination back in 2011 when I raced it for the very 1st time ... in fact it was my very first bike race ever. It was a ton of fun and from that moment on as an amateur bike racer, I knew I wanted to climb the ranks. Not because I was any good (I anticipate I am going to get creamed on the 14th) but because I wanted to get better.

So I've ridden, and ridden, have a spectacular coach, mechanic, friends, and a very forgiving wife in Madame X, and ridden. Freezing cold, baking sun, drowning rain, race after race of DNF or DFL, and comments of "... you're too old to race ... ." I didn't care, I wanted to get better and was willing to put in the work to do so.

Recently when preparing for my upgrade in cycling, I flashed back when I am on the bike to when I upgraded from a Grade 8 to a Grade 7 referee. A night match at U-Mass Amherst at the State Cup. I can still feel the night air. A bit heavy with a little tingle in it from the aura of being a match played at night.

I remember my upgrade match from Grade 6 to Grade 5 as a state referee. A Portuguese league match in RI that was "on the fence" until I happened to be right on the goal line (as a referee) for a deciding call.

National referee was another series of matches I recall too. None the least of which was at amateur regionals in PA, where after 3 days of matches I was selected for the mens final ... and was exhausted. My legs were cement, and my brain mush after so many matches in a short time. Some how ... we got through.

What permeated all of these experiences is how much work had gone into my craft and just how uncomfortable I felt moving from one point to the next. I have never felt "ready" to be at that next level.

So once more unto the breach dear friends, once more as I prepare to take another leap forward with an upgrade in cycling. For any interested, you will be able to see it LIVE starting at around 11a on the @kicking_back Twitter account.

Lot of words that may or may not answer the question for some, why upgrade?

To allow access to higher levels of competition?

To have a commitment to get better with a tangible goal as a result?

To keep hold of that "uncomfortable" feeling?

I'm not entirely sure, but for me, it is the feeling of continuing to move forward. It's not about good or bad performance, wins or losses ... just getting that little bit further the next time I'm out.