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.