Saturday, July 17, 2010

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.

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