Saturday, July 31, 2010

FIFA and Their Petri Dishes

IFAB approves additional assistant referee experiment

The Technical Sub-Committee of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved several requests from member associations and confederations to implement the experiment with two additional assistant referees during the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 seasons at a meeting held today, Wednesday, 21 July 2010 in Cardiff, Wales. The full list of approved requests can be found below.

At a previous Special Meeting of the IFAB held in Zurich on 18 May 2010, the Board had reviewed the experiment with two additional assistant referees that was carried out in the 2009/2010 UEFA Europa League, and had decided to continue the experiment until the 126th IFAB Annual General Meeting in 2012, but not to limit it to a single confederation. Therefore, confederations and member associations wishing to conduct this experiment were invited to inform IFAB of their interest for a decision to be taken at the meeting of the Technical Sub-Committee in Wales.

Full story continues here, courtesy of

Friday, July 30, 2010

World Cup Final Analysis - Part Deux

Earlier in July the Massachusetts State Referee Committee provided match analysis of the World Cup Final written from two perspectives; One from a coach, one from a referee.

To summarize these analysis, each was edited to fit to approximately 700 words. However the full blown analysis was more in depth in both cases. Each is provided below for your reading enjoyment.
Special thanks to Glenn Buckley for authoring the coaches analysis, and Mike Singleton and Tom Goodman for their support from Mass Youth.

Special thanks also to Andy Weiss from the MSRC for hatching this one and making it happen.

World Cup Final 2010 Executive Analysis can be seen here, courtesy of Massref.

Full analysis from Glenn Buckley, Mass Youth Development Coach, is here, courtesy of Mass Youth.

Full analysis from Peter Kokolski, National Referee Emeritus, is here, courtesy of Kicking Back.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Iran Attacks Paul the Octopus

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacks Octopus Paul

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader, says Paul the Octopus, the sea creature that correctly predicted the outcome of World Cup games, is a symbol of all that is wrong with the western world.

The Iranian president accused Octopus Paul of spreading 'western propaganda and superstition' Photo: REUTERS/EPA
Full story continues here, courtesy of

Kicking Back has no formal comment on the matter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Tony Hayward and referees have in common.

As many if you know, I am a political junkie and follow current events in that vein. So I was reading a BBC story about Tony Hayward's comments as he is transitioning out of the CEO role at BP, and is being replaced by  Bob Dudley (full story here, courtesy of the BBC). It goes into how Hayward feels "demonized and vilified", over what is going on in the gulf.

How often has that happened to a referee? I would say, almost always.

Take a look at the recent story of the Chinese fan running onto the field and attacking the refereeing crew. One of the coaches blamed the referee. Are you serious?

How about this one where the Dutch blame Webb for the loss in the recent World Cup final.

My favorite of all time is Phil Luckett. Anyone know him? NFL referee extradornare who had the guts to follow the rules during a coin toss on November 26, 1998 when the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Detroit Lions. Yep, this is where Jerome Bettis called "hea-tails" during the coin toss, Luckett when with "heads" as per the rule of the game, the first call uttered is the one to be used. You all know the rest of the story, Steelers lose the toss, and eventually lose the game.

Luckett was certainly demonized and vilified in Hayward like fashion with "The Bus" leading the charge. Bettis did become just a little more contrite however when sideline audio was unearthed of him explaining to Bill Cowher (coach at the time) that he did say "hea-tails". Classy stuff. Talk about (ahem) being thrown under a bus ... sorry.

There is so much of an appetite to blame someone else that has an article about the Top 10: Bad Referee Calls. By the way, Chavez buddy is at #3 for his handling that turned into a goal back in 1986.

Why is all of this stuff the referee's fault? Why is what happened in the gulf Hayward's fault? I have to believe that Hawyard's knowledge of the platform in the gulf was in the aggregate how much money it was making. That's what CEO's of big multi-national companies do ... watch the bottom line.

Similarly referees are there to uphold the laws of the game and apply them as required. Why is it up to a referee to keep a player from cheating as Maradona did? Why should a referee take lumps because a player does not have the courage to tell his coach he screwed up a coin toss? I don't get it.

Maybe the referee is an easy target for those who choose to shirk responsibility for their, or their teams own actions. Maybe the referee is there for the good of the game as is just so magnanimous that they should just take it. Maybe we are too stupid to give it back to those who have earned the blame. I don't know.

I guess I would really like to see players and coaches step up a bit more and really look at the issue before speaking. Just like I would like to see the "O Team" take a step back from Hayward and look at the issue.

Don't get me wrong, referees screw up plenty, and the really good ones cop to it right away and the game is better for it.

Just ask Jim Joyce.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Karate Kid?

Kicking Back comments: I happened to run across this story Monday and a couple of things flashed through my head. First, was the manager blaming the referee for the incident ... the whole incident, including the fan running out onto the pitch. (This has to be the textbook definition of "intervening cause") Second, was as the story cites, "... about 100 ... fans smashed up a car they believed belonged to the referee ...". Who wants to bet the fans got that one wrong? Story continues below.

Chinese football fan karate kicks ref

A fan enraged by two quick red cards shown to the Qingdao Chinese Super League club at the weekend registered his annoyance by launching a karate kick at the referee and shoving a linesman.

The incident dealt another blow to the image of Chinese football, which is widely considered to be corrupt and riven with violence both on and off the pitch.

Slovenian forward Aleksander Rodic was the first Qingdao player given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for diving in the 67th minute of the 2-0 loss to Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday.

See the full story (and video!) here, courtesy of

Monday, July 26, 2010

Funny what you find when you are not looking

For those faithful readers who want to know how the loop was closed on the Germany v. Serbia interview, here it is ...

As you can see from this AM post the article regarding the interview with Angelo Bratsis is up, and a link as well to In discussing the details of re-posting this article I got the opportunity to communicate with the author,  LE Eisenmenger, fairly extensively over the course of the day and learned a couple of things.

First, that the sites that LE writes for are excellent, as is the authored content by LE. I strongly encourage readers (if they are not aware of these sites) to go to both (specific articles by LE are here) and The Boston Pro Soccer Examiner.

Second, not all that long ago I was waxing about how media is part of the equation regarding popularity in the US, well the game clearly has a friend, as these posts range the spectrum from reporting on individual matches itself, to the more revealing look at the sport, and what goes into it.

Take a look, it is worth the time.

With any luck Kicking Back will find an excuse to collaborate with LE and we can really put our heads together on something.

Have a though about that? Please post it below!

Interview with Angelo Bratsis on Germany-Serbia officiating

The following article was published by on 21-JUN-2010, and authored by LE Eisenmenger.

Kicking Back comments: Following is an interview of Angelo Bratsis (see brief bio here) from 21-JUN-2010 discussing the Germany v. Serbia match and in particular the ejection of Klose. In reading, again think locally, as there are some very fertile points here for matches on any given Sunday. Article from continues below.

Ex-FIFA referee looks at Germany-Serbia officiating and Klose's ejection

Questionable officiating in high-profile 2010 World Cup matches such as Germany-Serbia and USA-Slovenia tarnish FIFA’s tournament. Germany (Group D) lost 1-0 to Serbia after referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco ejected Miroslav Klaus early with a second harsh caution. Undiano called the game tightly from the whistle, issued nine cautions overall and his heavy hand affected the quality of the highly anticipated match. After an outstanding performance in their 4-0 win over Australia, now Klose must serve a suspension and Germany’s future in World Cup is compromised.

For insight into the officiating of the Germany-Serbia match, I spoke with Angelo Bratsis, ex-FIFA referee for the United States and CONCACAF for 12 years.

LE: What did you see in referee Alberto Undiano’s officiating of Germany-Serbia?

Bratsis: I try not to be overly critical of referees, but I do have a lot of questions in my mind when I look at the game. Where does the referee work, what league? What level? How many years has he been around? Well, he’s been on the FIFA list since 2004, so he’s very, very experienced. He’s 36 years of age, a sociologist by trade. He has worked in many, many qualifiers, he works in the Spanish league, one of the best leagues in the world - this is where he works week in and week out. For years he’s been exposed to the highest possible level of players from all over the world. He’s not a rookie, he’s been exposed to high-pressure games, and should have been better prepared having the opportunity not many referees have to work in a league like the Spanish league.

I’m questioning his approach to the game, his total tactical and technical approach to the game. Any referee – I don’t care what referee – any referee that needs nine yellow cards to control a game, I have a very serious problem with that. I question his foul selection, foul discrimination. I question whether he can differentiate between an acceptable foul at that level that players don’t mind, accept, a foul that is careless - and a foul that is reckless. If he can’t distinguish between careless and reckless, he’s got a serious problem. A careless offense is just a simple foul, just a simple free kick and some of the calls he made are just simple, simple, simple fouls. When he turns a simple foul into a reckless, borderline excessive foul and feels that he needs to have a disciplinary action attached to that, I question that.

LE: Do you think he was consistent in his calls?

Bratsis: He was not consistent, he was very tight and relied on cards to control the game. Anybody who does that I question his management skills, his ability in that particular game, understanding who’s playing and what they’re playing for and what’s at stake and the degree and severity of each offense committed on the field. In the first half [Undiano] was very, very quick on the draw, so to speak. In the second half he started taking his time and thinking about whether he should take additional action against certain offenses, so I think he was a little bit more tuned in to the game than he was in the first half.

Usually at halftime referees talk about what’s going on out there, maybe get some advice from his ARs and the fourth official and adjusts his approach to the game. What do you guys see? What am I doing right, what am I doing wrong? And they make necessary adjustments. So if you monitor the second half you have Undiano approaching the game a little differently.

Full article by LE Eisenmenger continues here, courtesy of

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ex-FIFA referee looks at Germany-Serbia officiating and Klose's ejection

The author of this article, L. E. Eisenmenger (as seen on reached out to me over concerns of correctly citing the authorship of this work.

As stated in the "legal stuff" portion of this blog, Kicking Back is dedicated to respect of copyrights and wants to get these issues right.

While Kicking Back does not believe any violation has occurred, this particular post has been removed for the time being until such redaction or (optimally) additional permission is secured to re-post in full ... as this is a truly excellent article.

Stay tuned for more, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Steady Growth for Soccer in U.S.

Special thanks to CW Rice for finding this gem of an article.

Steady Growth for Soccer in U.S.

The vuvuzelas have gone quiet, the national flags have been put away, and the cable sports networks are back to talking about baseball. But the World Cup in South Africa has left its mark on soccer in the United States, and, if pattern holds, it will help the sport continue to grow in this country.

Even though the American team had long since left the tournament, more than 24 million fans watched the championship match, between Spain and the Netherlands, on ABC and Univision, a figure more than the average viewership for last year’s World Series games between the Yankees and the Phillies.

Midfielder Landon Donovan became a household name thanks to his on-field exploits for the United States. Americans bought more tickets to World Cup games than fans from any country other than South Africa, and more than half a million fans are expected to see Europe’s best teams play in the United States this summer, including the 44,213 who saw Manchester United beat the host Philadelphia Union, 1-0, on Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Article continues in full here, courtesy of The New York Times.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hugo Chávez breaks diplomatic ties between Venezuela and Colombia

While not a soccer story per se, I just about fell out of my chair when I saw this picture. Yes, that is sporting legend, and current Argentina Soccer Coach Diego Maradona joking with Hugo Chavez as he announced the severing of ties with Colombia. Yes, the very same press conference.

Let me say no more than I find this an interesting pairing on many levels. Your comments are welcome below.

Diego Maradona and Hugo Chávez share a joke during a press conference in which the Venezuelan president severed ties with Colombia. Photograph: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images
Hugo Chávez severed diplomatic ties with Colombia yesterday after it accused Venezuela of harbouring leftist guerrillas in dozens of camps along the border.

Venezuela's president ordered a "maximum alert" on the border and warned that his Andean neighbour could provoke war. "We have no other choice but, out of dignity, to totally break our relations with our brother nation of Colombia," Chávez told state television.
Colombia had claimed that Venezuela was sheltering 1,500 rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN), which have waged a decades-long conflict with the Colombian state.
Colombia presented maps, photographs, videos and witness testimony in a presentation at a meeting in Washington of the Organisation of American States, a pan-regional body.
Full story continues here, courtesy of

... and not wasting any time. Using Wise Words

Just the other day I waxed briefly about non verbal communication and how it can be employed and how useful it may be. Here is a post from For the Integrity of Soccer that is well worth the read and goes into the verbal communication.

Words to the wise: Use wise words.
You have to be a bit careful when talking to players about possible misconduct.  It's fine to make your point, but at the same time you don't want to make matters worse, especially if you have been having running exchanges with the particular player. ...

Full article continues here, courtesy of For the Integrity of Soccer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

For the Integrity of Soccer

Recently I have been E-Mailed a series of truly excellent articles from a truly excellent blog:

Similar to Ask A Soccer Referee, For the Integrity of Soccer is purveyed by folks with impeccable credentials and is authored and frequented by FIFA panel members on down the line. It is worth the time to read.

I have started to capture such links and they are now posted on the right pane of the blog for easy reference. I will from time to time, report articles that I believe are particularly impactful here for this audience.

If there are other such blogs of refereeing note that you believe are worth posting, please post a comment, or contact me and I will make sure they make there way up.

In the mean time, stay tuned here, and we'll do our best to post the best we find.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A special thank you ...

So as life returns to crazy normal for me (as opposed to crazy crazy) and I get my thoughts together from the Region I tournament, I wanted to begin with a thank you. Over that faithful week in traversing from Boston to Barboursville and back again I learned more than a few things about myself, some others, and the game.

I want to extend a very special thanks to the entire refereeing and assessing team and administrators of the Massachusetts delegation.

For reasons I will detail in due time, I have just about not looked at a soccer ball for a period of time ... a somewhat long period of time. Some very smart administrators however saw me poke my head out of the sand about just wee much and promptly grabbed me. Kudos to them for recognizing when to strike with me. There was of course the matter of the "rubber meeting the road" however. Getting involved is one thing, being accepted for it can be another.

To say that I was worried about just how far the world has turned since I stepped off my Merry-Go-Round is an understatement that bears recognition to me. I was unaware, and very anxious just how folks were going to react to me returning in this context. Be assured that anxiety remains quite strongly in other contexts to this very day.

Those fears were completely relieved at the airport out to Barboursville. It was so rewarding to have the opportunity to be with such a group of talented individuals, and from the very jump, to be able to interact with them as a peer. I was then, and am now in reflection, humbled and thankful by their generosity, to the last.

So please let this be our entry point into the Region I tournament through my lens ... that of a former referee at this tournament, turned assessor.

Next stop ... when old red shirts turn blue.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Germany Rejects Spain's Bid To Buy Octopus Oracle

Octopus oracle Paul's prescience wasn't needed to predict how this one would turn out: His aquarium in Germany on Friday gave a resounding "nein" to a bid to move the celebrity mollusk to Spain.

Paul rose from obscurity in Oberhausen's Sea Life aquarium during the World Cup to international celebrity as he correctly called the outcome of Germany's seven matches in the monthlong tournament, time and again picking a mussel from a tank marked with the flag of the would-be winner.

He also correctly predicted Spain would beat Germany in the semifinals — prompting many in his home country to speculate how he would taste grilled in garlic butter.

Already a celebrity in Spain after the semifinal prediction — Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero offered to send a security team to protect the 2 1/2-year-old floppy octopus from the hungry Germans — the country went wild for him after he correctly tipped Spain over the Netherlands in the finals.

Paul is now so popular in Spain that a northwestern Spanish town tried to borrow him. Officials in O Carballino, population 14,000, declared that the octopus is their "honorary friend" and wanted Paul's presence to promote a seafood festival, the Faro de Vigo newspaper said.

Full story here, courtesy of NPR.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Anyone catch the error in FIFA's post?

A few days ago, I posted a "By the Numbers" article from FIFA here.

Eagle eye JAFO picked up a pretty glaring error in the posting by FIFA. Not a little thing like an incorrect spelling of a word or two, but a serious error that I have since reached out to FIFA about (lets see what they will do).

Can anyone find it?

Comment below and lets see what we have ...

Say WHAT!?!?

So here is a funny story for you regarding just what an impact small gestures and non-verbal communication have.

Over this last week or so I have had the pleasure to be sitting at a bar review class, specifically for those who wish to practice before the USPTO in matters of patent law. The only way to be admitted for practice is through a brutal exam (the "Patent Bar") that spits up and chews out about 50% of those who take it and has done so year on year in varying degrees for some time now.

This class (by PLI) was held at Suffolk University School of Law in downtown Boston, a truly beautiful setting and school. So instead of trying to commute for these days, about an hour each way, just to sit in class for about (11) hours a day, I stayed in town nearby.

So about 7:30 in the morning I was walking to class on a Thursday and was passing by the Omni Parker House (a nice place if you get the chance to visit) and there was a very nice sedan there with a driver waiting to pick up someone. It was clear the driver's client was about to arrive as he was waiting there, door open, very attentive and ready to go. I admit I slowed my pace just a little to see who was going to pop out of the Omni ... I am a little bit of a voyeur, and while not a "star watcher", I am a people watcher and looked to see what would develop.

What happened next was not what I would have expected.

A meter man (masculine of maid) sauntered by and caught the eye of the driver who was illegally parked, albeit for the legitimate reason of waiting for his fare. The next exchange was priceless.

Meter man looked at Driver ... Driver pointed at the open door indicating his fare was imminent ... Meter man  tapped his citation book ... Driver closed the door and drove off. Not a single word was spoken.

It was fantastic. I think I audibly said "wow" too. Yes, I am a dork.

Now, am I suggesting that tapping your pocket where you keep your caution is a good mechanic to warn a player? No, I am not. In fact I particularly dislike that mechanic personally, but have seen it used with effect.

What I am saying is that when you have an understanding with a player, or a team, a lot of talk may mean nothing, a simple gesture may get it done without more. A palm in the "stop" position is a very powerful hand signal, and usually gets the point across even without a word.

Next time you are out, focus on your NON-VERBAL communication and see what you can accomplish without saying a word. By doing this, you are quietly building your arsenal of ways to help control a match using a minimalist approach.

Like with other things in life, starting small and working your way up leaves you options if you need them later. If all goes well however, the "worst" non-verbal cue you'll need, is a smile. =)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

World Cup Alphabet Soup

Well it has been a week since the final, and to be honest I feel a little, empty. Here is an A - Z look at World Cup 2010 to hopefully fill some of that void.

A Look Back At World Cup 2010: From A to Z

And like that…. It’s gone. Thirty days. Sixty-four matches that yielded 145 goals. Thirty-two nations. One Champion.
Another World Cup has come and gone, leaving hundreds of heart-stopping memorable moments in its wake. For the casual fan, you’ll have to wait four more agonizing years to get your fix again. For more ardent soccer fans, have no fear: The EPL starts up next month as Chelsea looks to defend its title. And with the natural shakeup and transfer activity, who’s the favorite to win the UEFA Champions League?
OK, enough about that. Let’s take a look back at the moments that will forever be etched in our memories from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. From A to Z.
Full story continues here, courtesy of the San Diego News Network.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

World Cup afterthoughts

The party is over and the World Cup has left South Africa, and generally the reviews have been very good. FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, praised South Africa’s efforts in hosting this year’s World Cup by giving them nine out of 10.

Praise for World Cup hosts
Before leaving Johannesburg, Blatter gave “Big compliments to South Africa and to the people of this country. Also, big compliments to the South African government for meeting all the guarantees they made for the successful organisation of the World Cup” writes the Daily Dispatch.

South African officials are also very pleased with the tournament. At a news conference, President Zuma stated that “"We are sure that the investment we have made will contribute to increased tourism, trade and investment. This will ultimately create new opportunities and bring in the revenue for us to address social challenges."

The South African transport minister, Sibusiso Ndebele, praised transport operators for their efforts in ensuring smooth transportation for all during the World Cup, and stated that an improved public transportation system will be one of the key legacies of the tournament, writes the Mail & Guardian.

Before the start of the tournament, the media spent a lot of time writing about the South African crime rate and the dangers football fans and journalists would encounter by going there. However, heavy investment in security meant that South Africa managed to host an almost problem free World Cup.

A poll conducted among 400 South Africans even shows that 85% of South Africans now have more hope for a positive future for all South Africans than they did before the tournament, writes Sport24. 

Actually, the tournament ran so smoothly that it has actually caused problems for President Zuma, raising expectations that his government can meet a series of unfulfilled promises in the same bold fashion, writes IoL.

The media seems to agree with Sepp Blatter that South Africa did a great job in hosting the World Cup

Critical voices asks questions

But, of course the critical voices who were there before the World Cup are still posing difficult questions now. The cost of the preparations soared while new stadia were built instead of renovating existing ones, and people ask whether this kind of spending on one event is economically responsible in a country where so many people live in poverty.

Questions about South Africa’s actual economic gain have resounded again and again since before the start of the tournament, and the brand value and the legacy left by tournament will take years to measure, argues Dr Udesh Pillay in the New York Times.

But the one who arouses the main part of the critical voices is FIFA. They have been declared the big winners of the World Cup, claiming $ 3.3 billion in television rights and marketing revenue, and have throughout the tournament been criticized for their strict marketing policies, for keeping local traders far away from the steady earnings they would get around the stadia, for not paying taxes in South Africa and for basically taking over the country.

Comments from the media

Business Day’s Paul Hoffman argues in the article "Beneath the glow of Fifa’s untaxed empire" that “Gratitude for cracking the nod from FIFA to host it should not blind the South African public to the less attractive features of the World Cup — those for which FIFA is responsible.”

Also Marina Hyde from the Guardian looks critically at the power FIFA exerts over its host countries. “We already knew FIFA could trump a medium-sized government. What South Africa underlined was the fact that FIFA can trump constitutional rights, cementing the organisation's status as a sort of travelling oligarchy, enjoying all the benefits of power with none of the disadvantages, like having to provide healthcare or be remotely accountable”, she writes in her article "Sepp Blatter's slick patter sticks in South Africa's craw".

South African cartoonist Zapiro has throughout the tournament produced comical sketches giving a critical comment  the World Cup. With his cartoon, "The Holy FIFA Empire", he shows Sepp Blatter controlling the whole world while calling the roman emperors, the rulers of the British empire and Genghis Kahn amateurs.

On, Chris Gaffney comments, in the article "Brazil 2014: Looking back, looking forward, going nowhere here", on FIFA’s way of managing events like these, looking ahead at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “South Africans really were wonderful hosts, spending public money freely so that the Swiss-based monolith could rake in a record profit. It won’t take long for FIFA to count their US$3.3 billion in revenues (for the month); it will take South Africa many decades to pay off the party” he writes.
And unless something changes radically, the same future lies ahead for Brazil he argues. “The World Cup and Olympics need to be massively reconfigured, re-scaled and re-thought, or they will continue to destroy environments, economies, communities and lives around the globe.”
Story credit to

Veterans' Cup Descends on Lancaster

The Veterans’ Cup is the Adult Association’s annual tournament for teams with players over age 30. There are teams in brackets all the way up to an Over 60 division, and they come from all over the country to compete for the trophy. There are even teams from Japan and South Africa. There are no playoffs to determine who gets here. Any team that wants to pay the fee can play.
This year it is taking place in Lancaster and runs through Sunday.

Many players take their annual vacations from work just to play at this event. They have a good spirit, are mature enough to know that they are lucky to still be competing, and enjoy it for what it is. The games are full length, with added time and overtime if necessary in the knockout rounds. The players are older and do not move as fast as they once did. However they still remember how to play. They are talented, and include some former professionals such as Mike Burns and Jay Heaps, among many others.

The biggest complaint heard about the refereeing was about referees not taking the game or the players seriously enough. This complaint was heard more often from the women’s teams. After a slide tackle in a Women’s Over 50 game, one referee asked, “Why are you doing that at your age?” Not the best thing to say. Fortunately these kinds of incidents were not heard very often, and there were many more positive comments than negative ones.

The real challenge of refereeing at this tournament is not keeping up with play or even recognizing fouls. It is learning to manage adult players who have a different motivation for playing. They are not kids any more. They play with pain, and they have to get up to go work on Monday. They play for the camaraderie and to suspend, even if only for 90 minutes, the reality of their inexorable march toward middle-age and the day they cannot play any more. They are looking for a little respect.

The referees overall did very well. They come from all over the country too. It has been hot this week. Hot weather separates the men from the boys. It also separates the women from the men. As the morning overcast layer burned off and the temperature climbed, it seemed the men started showing the effects. They looked a little haggard in the referee tent, and walking to and from the fields. Meanwhile the women seemed to suffer no ill effects. The strong survive, and the others wilt.

Soccer is life.

Being the numbers guy I am ...

Here is an interesting article from FIFA that details the 2010 World Cup "by the numbers".

Full article here, courtesy of FIFA.

Holy Orange Batmam

No comment from me, but worth reading here, courtesy of ESPN.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thank You Readers!

Number of days: 30
Number of hits: A few thousand

Being able to get some good conversation going around the world from FIFA referees to the in town volunteer linesman: Priceless.

Thanks to all of you for making that possible!

PAUL HOFFMAN: Beneath the glow of Fifa’s untaxed empire

THE general euphoria and feelings of thankfulness following the 2010 World Cup have seemingly precluded anyone from now assessing Fifa’s role in the tournament. Gratitude for cracking the nod from Fifa to host it should not blind the South African public to the less attractive features of the World Cup — those for which Fifa is responsible.
On the field, these manifested themselves in palpable unfairness in the decision making for which Fifa’s match officials are responsible. Fifa claims they got it right 96% of the time. The problem is that when they got it wrong, they did so spectacularly. As a consequence of refereeing errors, it can be argued that England bowed out early and Mexico lost a match it could have drawn. Fifa president Sepp Blatter apologised, but whether corrective action is taken remains to be seen.

Had Fifa put in place a simple review system using modern technology, a far fairer outcome was easily achievable. There has been a chorus of criticism of the antiquated way in which the process of adjudication of the matches is still carried out 10 years into the 21st century. If Fifa does not take steps to improve this situation soon, one can expect to hear cynics claim there are murkily suspicious reasons for keeping the current system of refereeing in place.

It is, however, off the field that Fifa’s role is open to even more criticism. The process by which Fifa selects the country in which the tournament is held every four years is both opaque and unaccountable.

Full article continues here at Business Day.

Refeerees Get an "A" in World Cup 2010

Referees were right 96 percent of the time at the World Cup, according to a study by FIFA's referees' committee.

The study looked at key decisions such as free kicks, penalties and goal decisions but did not examine minor rulings such as throw-ins.

The data was collected by video examination carried out by referees committee members and FIFA instructors, Jose Maria Garcia-Aranda, head of refereeing for the sport's governing body, told Reuters.

Full story continues here, courtesy of Reuters.

Gotta love Wikipedia ... Unless your Sepp

See why here courtesy of ESPN.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Veterans Cup - here we come

I head for Veterans Cup tomorrow and will endeavor to keep up Pete's standard of reporting. I attended the Referee meeting on Tuesday and my take away from the meeting was "this may not be the World Cup but a lot of people have spent a lot of money to attend. Approach these games with respect and professionalism"

Football + Money == World Cup in the US

U.S. World Cup bid for 2018 gets boost

The 2010 World Cup is history today, leaving behind a checkered legacy.
This latest World Cup was not the international draw FIFA and South Africa had hoped it would be, and fans worldwide saw tracts of empty seats throughout the Cup.

But what was bad news for FIFA and SAWOC might turn out to be very good news for the United States’ hopes of landing either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Because this past World Cup failed to meet financial expectations, the United States -- which no one doubts can sell can sell out every World Cup game -- suddenly looks like an even more attractive option.
Full story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Side by side analysis of WC Final is up on

Check it out here.

Full unedited versions will be posted here at Kicking Back in the days ahead.

Unsung hero award: Héctor Vergara

The other day I was gently reminded by a comment here (thank you CWY2190) of the storied career of this man, Héctor Vergara (FIFA bio here).

His contribution to GER v. URU in the 3rd place match was his third game as an assistant referee at the 2010 World Cup and with the appearance, Vergara will set a FIFA record for most World Cup games as a combination of referee and assistant referee with 14.

A FIFA referee since 1993, Vergara has quite a list of laurels to his name including the following:

International Tournaments Refereed

FIFA Referee Profile 2004

  • 1999 CONCACAF US Cup
  • 1998 CONCACAF U-20 World Championship Qualification Tournament
  • 1998 CONCACAF Caribbean Shell Cup
  • 1997 CONCACAF US Cup

This will be Vergara’s last World Cup for certain, and perhaps his final elite matches. He’ll turn 44 in December, and as we know FIFA’s mandatory retirement age is 45. In addition to the above, he has worked 130 internationals, and now 14 of these at the World Cup, breaking a record.

Like almost all of his colleagues, this is a part-time dream as his day job is executive director of the Manitoba Soccer Association. Recently he stated in a recent interview with a Canadian newspaper, “I just want to make my family and friends proud.”. Well sir, I do believe you have accomplished that, and so much more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More than 50 World Cup fans killed in terrorist attacks

A sad story indeed, and a facet of the world we live in today.

Bombers Kill More Than 50 in Attacks in Uganda Capital

KAMPALA, Uganda — At least three bombs exploded Sunday in a synchronized attack on large gatherings of World Cup soccer fans watching the televised final on outdoor screens in this normally peaceful capital, turning a boisterous night of cheering into scenes of death and panic. The police and witnesses said more than 50 people were killed, including some foreigners, among them at least one American.

Full story here, courtesy of the New York Times.

A programming note ...

Real life gets in the way again.

While many of you will be serving at Veterans Cup this week and weeks end, I have the dubious pleasure of attending a bar review class in Boston for the rest of the week and the weeks end. My access and time will be limited, so I have a series of posts and re-posts for you all that are of mostly World Cup flavor that I found interesting.

I will be checking in and may find the time to post additional information, and certainly will find time to monitor comments from the existing posts (you guys are burning up the latest post on Webb). Also, as soon as the massref post comes out, I will link to it here too as that I am sure will get the juices flowing. Also, on my return I have permission to post the full and unedited versions here for your reading pleasure.

For those at the Veterans Cup, any updates from the fields are appreciated, and I am sure we will be hearing from JAFO, Nigel, and maybe a Kicking Back guest contributor that was just over in South Africa and is writing furiously about the sights, sounds, and politics of the World Cup. Stand by for that one, it looks good!

I wonder what Newton thought?

Well friends, now comes the hard work. Work where we take apart a match and see what we as referees could have done differently, or better.

As before I am not going to share an opinion here about how Webb did specifically. I will reserve this one for a piece I am writing side by side with a National coach that will be posted on in the days ahead breaking down the final (report here). Today, I will ask a simple question, with what I believe is a very complex answer.

Do the laws of physics change for matches like these? In other words is a foul in a "regular game" the same as a foul in a "big game"? Should these matches be called the same way?

Take the following example:
I was sitting in Fat Patty's last week with the whole Region I crew after a steamy week of matches. We were having lunch and watching the URU v. NED match (report here). At one point in time, a NED player bicycled a kick and cracked a URU player in the mouth. Almost immediately there were cries of "RED CARD", "SEND HIM OFF". In reply there were cries of "WHAT, ARE YOU KIDDING? THIS IS THE WORLD CUP".

Now here was a group of very experienced referees who saw the same incident and came to two very different conclusions. Some, wanted to apply the laws as they exist and deal with the player for what they did. Others saw the pageantry in the match and just assume let the player off with a caution. What is a referee to do?

I would opine this is an untenable position for a referee at times. While the referee is certainly charged with applying the Laws of the Game in Law 5, and is also impliedly charged with upholding the Spirit of the Game, where are referees charged with upholding the pageantry of the Game? When is a foul not a foul, or a misconduct not a misconduct for the entertainment value of the game?

Granted I am oversimplifying an extraordinarily complex answer at levels such as the World Cup. I do believe however these answers become simpler the further down the "food chain" the match is. Let me use it as a spring board to make a point about matches we do everyday.

With the incident above from the World Cup final, I believe Webb painted himself into an untenable corner. For those players in that match, the bar was set that the foul in the above picture was a caution. So anything up to and including repeat offenses of this foul would receive no more than a caution. I believe the players responded accordingly in this match.

Take the incident local now. Would you allow this as a caution? Why or why not? As a referee you must always be aware of what the "tone" or "level" the match is at. There is a line that you draw as referee that if players dance over it, action must be taken. Depending how far over the line they go, will dictate the response from the referee.

A minor incursion may provoke only a mild rebuke, a look, a quiet word. A more substantial one, an "ass chewing" or misconduct. Go way over the line, and you have little choice in the matter. As referee, YOU set where that line is and how to deal with folks who go over it. Note that the line can and does change from match to match, and can even change within a match depending on how things are going. Sometimes the players need the ball taken away ... sometimes they need the ball more.

Understand that the tools you have such as cautions and send offs give cues to the players as to where that line is, and what the "tone" of the match will be. Players are looking for these cues from you, just like you as referee are looking for cues from players. Work with the players to help them understand where your "line" is, and your match management will show well for it.

Do I believe the laws of physics change for matches such as the World Cup Final? Yes I do. But I also believe that all the way up to that point everyone did just fine with the Laws as they were meant to apply. For a match, this single match, to contort the Laws, and the person charged to apply them, certainly did defy physics. History should remind us however, as it did here, that funny results can occur if we defy the Laws of Nature, and the Game.

Looks like quite a party

Spain's World Cup victory parade, in pictures:
Full post is here, courtesy of the BBC.

Monday, July 12, 2010

HBS + World Cup == World Cup Leadership Lessons

Very interesting article here, courtesy of the Harvard Business School.
Kudos to Dennis McCarthy for tweeting this one.

Referees leap to Howard Webb's defence

Former Premier League referees have defended Howard Webb after criticism of his display during Spain's 1-0 World Cup final win over the Netherlands.
Webb booked 13 players and sent off Dutchman Johnny Heitinga in a fractious and incident-packed game on Sunday. ...
Full story here, courtesy of BBC Sport.

Let the post World Cup analysis begin: But first ...

So as the World Cup comes to a close, there will be weeks and months of analysis ahead, and we here will partake in such. But to start us off, I wanted to share a somewhat humorous analysis of The Game from what would appear to be "an American perspective".

It would see clear, as ambassadors of the game here in the US, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen ... Howard Webb

Howard Melton Webb, born 14-JUL-1971, hails from Rotherham, South Yorkshire England. Web has been a referee since 1993 and a FIFA referee since 2005. His FIFA bio is here, and Wikipedia page is here.

Webb will be joined by Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey as his assistants for the final. No information at the time of this writing is available for the alternate referee, or alternate assistant referee.

Howard Webb's father was a referee and it was he who made his son aware of a referee's course. Howard passed the course when he was 19 years old and started refereeing locally. He became a referee in the Northern Counties East League in 1996. In the year 2000 he was included on the National List of Football League referees. By then he was only 29 years old. Three years later he was selected as a Premiership referee. In 2005 at the age of 34 he received his FIFA badge.

Webb will be the first Englishman sine 1974 to preside over a World Cup final where Jack Taylor was the last who refereed the Dutch loss to West Germany.

Webb is also the youngest at 38 to referee a World Cup final in 72 years, the last being Pierre Capdeville. 

During this time he has accumulated quite a record of matches as noted here by Also of note is his discipline record statistics listed below:
YearGamesTotal BookedBooked per gameTotal Red cardRed card per game
Webb's style is seemingly one of presence and communication, not strict discipline. This would seem to be emphasised in a recent BBC interview where Howard notes that, "being a good referee all comes down to the way you manage people and how you communicate with them".

NED v. ESP will be a significant test of that style as he leads us into the closing match of this quadrennial festival.