Tuesday, August 31, 2010

US Soccer + Glenn Beck == ??

So as I have said before, I am a bit of a political junkie. To prove this I was cruising the information superhighway the other day and ran across this story about the Glenn Beck rally on Saturday the 28th.

I found the above picture from the article interesting. Look close at the logo on the T-Shirt.

Yep ... its the US Soccer logo.

Please note this is not an invitation for a political debate of any type and I'm not espousing some conspirator theory that US Soccer is funding Glenn Beck or anything of the sort.

I just saw the logo and took note. After all, sometimes a T-shirt, is just a T-shirt.

Four More Years For Bob??

Check out Grant Wahl's thoughts here on the topic, FIFA's here, and US Soccer's spin here.

Lets see what happens next ... I don't think we're quite done yet.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We're not going to take it ... (Sung to Twisted Sister)

First of all, go here to listen to the song if you are so inclined.

Does anyone remember the name Jim Leyland? Well he is the manager that showed the grace to publicly forgive Jim Joyce for the call he blew back in June taking a perfect game away from Galarraga. See here for a recap.

Well, Jim's "pissed" (his words), and I honestly don't blame him. He was accused of spitting on an umpire, what sound like what actually happened, was some sunflower seeds accidental shot out of his mouth when he was arguing a call at second base. Gross, but innocent in nature.

While he was ejected from the game, and Leyland himself is fine with that, to be accused of spitting on an umpire is serious stuff, and he is not going to stand for it.

As he stated to the Detroit Free Press:
"I'm tired of protecting umpires. I'm tired of not being able to say anything. I'm defending myself. If you want to kick me out, that's fine. I don't care about that because it sprayed on his shirt, but when you start to accuse somebody of doing something you better be careful."
... and he's right. As referees we not only have to report the correct misconduct - but have to get the underlying misconduct correct. Men of good conscious can disagree if it was or was not a handball or yellow card (for example), but to accuse someone of doing something serious, you must be sure. A referee loses all credibility and integrity instantly otherwise.

Full story here, courtesy of USA Today.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Developemnt Night at the Revolution - Total Success!

The MSRC hit the ball out of the park on the 28th at the Development Night at the Revolution!

In a tremendously creative approach, the SDI (Nigel Bright - a contributor here on Kicking Back) designed a recertification program to include not only observing and reporting on video clips, as is very often done, but extended this to the same on an actual professional match.

Classroom work was very well done with interactive portions along with the video clips. Also there was a surprise visit from the match officials who were gracious enough to take questions and hung around for about 15 minutes. The venue was tremendous. It was a first class event in a private section of the Fidelity Clubhouse at Gillette with a packed house of more than 200 people in attendance.

From there each referee had the assignment to observe the match, and report back via an online form, the incidents they observed and why they believe the referee took that action. These results will be gathered and compared to the comments of the assessors in attendance and published to that community to see how similar the observations were.

While unfortunately not a great night for the Revolution, it was for the 200+ referees in attendance.

I have been sworn to secrecy regarding my observations about the match, but it suffices to say I respectfully disagree with Mr. Nicol's opinion about the referee performance as he alluded to in the article today from Frank Dell'Apa.

90 Foot Launch

Kicking Back Comments:
This is an interesting incident from the perspective that we have to remember as referees that players have relationships too. Very often we are asked to step in when that relationship is not going so well, but there is one there none the less. Over time it is important to form relationships with these players too. For those who see teams on a regular basis (in town leagues for example) there is nothing wrong with taking to understand the dynamics of the relationships between players, coaches, administrators, other referees, et al. These relationships are what will make or break you the further you go.

Early in my career I was instructed to call people "sir" or "ma'am" (except Barbara Boxer, who I would call "Senator"), and this seemed to work for a while for no other reason that it was polite. As I progressed and saw teams more and more regularly I found it more helpful to use a persons name in a respectful way (e.g. Mr. Bright, Ms. Murphy) as it started to form a connection between us. Later still, I took the time to know these folks and could strike up a conversation whenever we saw each other. I recall seeing Steve Nichol so frequently as manager of the local "A League" team that he would comment on my haircut when he did not like it. It was truly comical. But more importantly he felt comfortable to let me know when something was at issue. From there I would filter the comment and ask "what is he getting at?" It was usually something pretty vital to the match at hand.

It is critical for a referee to be aware of what is going on and the interactions between people to get the full picture. I recognize this umpire was a "vacation substitute" and may not have that time to be able to understand the dynamic. In which case, he should have just let it go.

I'm not advocating being willfully blind to an issue, what I am saying is take the time to understand it, and then, and only then, take the appropriate action.

Beltre taken by surprise
He says umpire was way off base

Adrian Beltre was called out on strikes in the second inning last night on a pitch he thought was low. He told umpire Dan Bellino his opinion and returned to the dugout.

“I didn’t curse or anything,’’ Beltre said. “I said I thought it was low. He said it was a good pitch and I walked away.’’
Once the inning was over, Beltre trotted out to third base and playfully boasted to Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez that he would get him the next time. ...

Full article here courtesy of the Boston Globe.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ready ... Steady ...

An old axiom often cited is that "Piss Poor Preparation Produces Piss Poor Performance". So in my preparing for the development night at the Revolution, (to avoid poor performance) following is a general template about how I would prepare for matches.

Please note, do what works for you. Some people would do more, some people would do less, and get the same result. Take this with a grain of salt and make it your own. Your mileage may vary.

Now the focus on this particular discussion is at the professional level, but many of the general points apply in local matches as well. Keep in mind too that some of these resources will not be available for the matches you are doing. Again, make this form work for you.

I generally begin by taking a self inventory and making sure that I am prepared for the match. I would wind down my training for the week and make sure to get some rest around match day minus 3. Lots of fluids, lots of rest. I would push this back if I had to travel to the match as travel itself can be tiring.

Have you made contact with your team? Have a ride? Need a ride? Local hotel? Flying in? Where are the teams staying?

I generally would look at the history of each team separately. Simple things like win/loss any roster changes of late, general news about the team, place in the standings, etc.. All to get a general idea what is going on and if there is anything at issue that this particular match turns on. An example would be playoff implications, a new (and famous) player joining the team, etc..

From there I generally look into the injuries on the team. Who is hurt, how they got hurt, and their status. A player nursing an injury can be a difficult management situation and to know this up front will help.

Still looking at the individual teams, I would then look at statistics. Some referees that I know don't like to do this as there is a concern that it taints the opinion. I respectfully disagree, but also am careful to not let the bias creep in. For example, lets take the Revolution (stats here). What is this page telling me?

  • Schilawski and Perovic are the goal scorers and Dube is right there in assists. These are players that might be marked hard and should be protected.
  • Niouky stands out as committing the most fouls, yet does not produce (no goals, 1 assists, and a handful of fouls suffered).
  • Cautions ... Niouky tops the list.
  • Send offs ... there were 3 ... and Niouky has one. (Ed note ... he is a midfielder too, not a pure defender).
So from this I am starting to paint a picture of who may be at issue, and what is at stake in the match. Who are the coaches? Trainers? Know their names? Are they a problem? How would you deal with it even before stepping into the field?

From there I move on to the opposing team, and take great note of who is playing where and what the venue is.

How big is the field? Altitude? Local traditions? (Have you ever heard the cannons fire in Raymond James stadium in Florida after a goal? - Scared the crap out of me the first time ... and every time after that). Weather? Field Surface!! (I got bit by that one in NY once ... cost me $100 for a new pair of Copa's 3 hours before the match) By the way, traveling teams expect a "better" that fair shake.

Same approach for the opposing team. General to the specific.

Now, I move to head to head. Have these teams played before? What was the result? Were there problems in the match? Is payback coming?

I may actually try to get my hands on the match if possible and review it once to get a flavor. Also I would check the Week In Review for that week and see what happened.

How about calling that referee? Why not!

I believe there are two main points to consider when doing such research:

  1. Get all the information you can about the teams themselves, head to head, and the venue. Synthesize the match from this. Who are the goal scorers, bullies, what's at stake?
  2. Don't be a slave to the information! You are just looking at a two dimensional picture. Adapt the knowledge to the reality of the match, which is played in 4 dimensions.
With all this info, and thinking about how to apply it, you will be ready for many things that get thrown at you, and can say you are well prepared for a match ... assuming the knowledge of the game and fitness pieces are there too, as without those pieces peril awaits at that level.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Upgrade Kudos

Here is another pair of referees that that performed exceptionally and have received upgrades for their efforts.
I want to take just a second a recognize these individuals that have distinguished themselves in this regard.

Keep it up guys!

James Moriarty & Frank Bagnardi

A time to celebrate

August has been a bit of a whirlwind for me personally for a variety of reasons. None the least of which is the work many have done surrounding my father's name that has occurred. Here is a very brief synopsis.

Stephen A. Kokolski Assessor of the Year.
This was a truly humbling experience. When first told about this honor of the renaming the MSRC Assessor of the Year Award to the Stephen A. Kokolski Assessor of the Year Award, I was shocked speechless (a rare occurrence unto itself). Even more humbling was the privilege to say a few words and present the award in the honor of the individual who received it. Mr. Pete Robinson truly embodies the values of this award for everything he does both for the program, and the referees and assessors it services. An honor well earned, and one I truly enjoyed delivering.

Photo courtesy MSRC
Stephen A. Kokolski Scholarship Awards.

August was also the month that the recipients of the 2010 Stephen A. Kokolski scholarships were awarded. A hearty congratulations to Mr. Christopher Fitzgibbon and Mr. Peter Reis, each a 2010 SAK scholarship award recipient.
Mr. Fitzgibbon came to us with not only solid refereeing credentials as he begins his career, but also a clear affinity for the sciences. Well rounded is probably the best way to describe Chris, as he seems to be equally comfortable in his role at MIT, as well as his ever expanding exposure to the finer details of music.

Mr. Reis also comes with some serious credentials as well. An honors student of chemical engineering at Northeastern University, in his off time is working at P&G and a recognized ability in the refereeing world as he attended at Region I President's Cup, and was an alternate for the National President's Cup in Nashville, TN.

Congratulations to both Chris and Peter!

We are in the process now of creating a web site for this ongoing foundation. It can be viewed here. Work is progressing and changes are coming.

A busy month so far indeed ... and one that will be topped off on the 28th by working with the instructional staff at the Development Night at the Revolution, where your humble author has been transformed from reporter, to quasi-instructor. Don't miss it ... it promises to be outstanding.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Open and Shut Case

Kicking Back Comments:
While at times I get the sense that FIFA wants to be a bona fide governing body (i.e. a recognized government), and takes steps in that direction with some of their tremendous charity work and influence they exert on nations. However, it is vapid responses like this which demonstrate a willingness not to engage in what may be a far more serious issue which (for me) very clearly militate away from any such assertion of true governance.

FIFA Statement on Korea DPR
Following a request for information sent by FIFA to the Korea DPR Football Association on 11 August, FIFA can now confirm that it has received a letter from the Korea DPR Football Association as a reply to that request for information. ...

See the full statement here on the casual inquiry investigation, courtesy of FIFA.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week In Review - Week 20: A MUST READ

Kicking Back Comments:
For those who are not familiar with the "Week In Review" from US Soccer you should make it a regular read on a weekly basis. This week was particularly insightful as it talks about the "puzzle" that needs to be put together regarding Persistent Infringement (PI). Take the ten minutes and read it ... an excellent read.

Week In Review 2010 
Week 20 – Ending August 15, 2010 
The ability of a referee to feel the game and piece together the various scenarios in a game (much like building a puzzle) has been reviewed in multiple “Week In Reviews” during the past two and a half seasons. This feel and the ability to piece together the big picture is one of the vital aspects of being a top-class referee. This version of the “Week In Review” will examine four clips requiring both feel and an understanding of the big picture to successfully navigate each scenario and make the optimum decision (guided by the Laws of the Game).

Full post here, courtesy of US Soccer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Poll ... Offside or Not?

As many of you have seen, there is a question if the video clip posted here is offside or not.

There is now a poll dedicated to the question. So the question is ..

Offside or not?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Offside or Not Offside ???

Simple enough - watch the 1 minute clip and decide.


Bradely Watch Continues ... Now Looking At Aston Villa

Bradley confirms interest in Aston Villa job

United States coach Bob Bradley says he is keen to hold talks with Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner about being their next boss following Martin O'Neill's exit earlier this month.

Bradley, who led the USA to the last 16 of the World Cup, has had no formal talks with Villa's American owner but his representatives have made contact with the club.
"I think Aston Villa is a massive club with great history and a great following and those type of opportunities would of course be of interest," Bradley told BBC Radio Five Live. "I would certainly be honoured to have that conversation but I'm impressed with the way things have been handled so far and we'll see what the future holds." ...
Full story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

JAFO Weighs In

As a follow up to "You Wanna Go?" earlier in the month, JAFO had a really a really good comment, agreeing in part with my comments, but adding a critical wrinkle to the mix. I wanted to share with you all. Straight from JAFO:

Yes but.........contained in the MLB rules is this gem: "9.02(a) Comment: Players leaving their position in the field or on base, or managers or coaches leaving the bench or coaches box, to argue on BALLS AND STRIKES will not be permitted. They should be warned if they start for the plate to protest the call. If they continue, they will be ejected from the game."

So, to take the umpire's position for a moment, this is an automatic, and his hands are essentially tied.  I am sure that Kulpa was not taunting Hunter, but expressing surprise and disbelief that Hunter would even begin to argue a ball/strike call knowing the penalty for doing so.  And this in the 8th inning of a game in which Hunter's team was in firm command.  Why argue something un-winnable at that point?  

This does not negate your comments and conclusion that Kulpa could have shown more respect, but does it at least raise the question about what responsibility the player had in all of this.  By backing the umpire into a corner, was Hunter showing respect?

A most excellent comment from one far more educated than I am about baseball.

My answer to the last question posited is a resounding "no" and JAFO is right that respect is a two sided coin. By Hunter arguing after the fact, and knowing better, he did put Kulpa in a corner that he had to do something. Ignore, argue back, eject ... None are great alternatives for Kulpa, or the game. Point well taken JAFO.

It lead me to a follow on thought, to be covered tomorrow soon, about "automatic" v. "discretionary" sanctioning and when you must use one versus considering using the other. Something about having enough rope to choke yourself ...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Upgrade Kudos

It is always a special occasion when a referee attains a new grade. It is a very clear signal of accomplishment and commitment to the craft many of us have dedicated our lives to.

I want to take just a second a recognize a few individuals that have distinguished themselves in this regard.

I wish them well on this next phase of their journey.
James Cormican

John Fontes

Randy Ellis

Ben Stillwell

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Parents gone wild ...

Kicking Back Comments:
My answer to the byline question is ... NO! Book the guy and throw away the key for assault and battery of an 11 year old. Read on to see just how people lose their minds when it comes to youth sports. Granted I can empathize as I have seen my son tackled pretty hard in a match, but not to the point where I ran out into the field and do what this guy did. Take a look at the video too ... and the offending players coach who was flirting with blaming the referee, but never quite got there ... it was close though.

After Kids' Soccer Game - Arrest Over the Top?

Brighton, N.Y.- After a nearly month-long investigation, Brighton Police have arrested a Victor man for an incident at a Rochester District Youth Soccer League game.

It happened on July 16th at French Road Elementary School in a game between the Brighton Stormers and Victor-Farmington teams.

Police said that during the game, contact between 11-year-old players began escalating--and that's when Kevin Merriman, 41, of Victor, parent of a Victor-Farmington player, went onto the field, picked up one of the Brighton players and held him in a "bear hug" that resulted in the child being lifted off the ground. ...

Read the full article here, courtesy of WHAM.COM out of Rochester NY.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Poor Henry ... (Viewer warning ... off color language)

The following video courtesy of joketunes
See all their videos (also off color) here on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hector has plenty to say

Kicking Back Comments:
Earlier in July Kicking Back wrote about on of the most decorated FIFA referee/ARs, Hector Vergara.After his return to Canada he did what many of us do ... and that is to keep going at what he loves. Following is a nice interview with Mr. Vergara, sharing some of his thoughts about his last World Cup, its referees, their controversy, and life in general. A good read.

Back from World Cup, decorated official has plenty to say

What does the busiest official in World Cup history do when he returns home from a 44-day stay in South Africa? He puts on his cleats and gets back on the pitch, of course.

H├ęctor Vergara has officiated more World Cup games than anyone in history. At the recently completed 2010 edition of the world’s biggest sporting spectacle, he was patrolling the sidelines as an assistant referee for the Italy-Paraguay and Brazil-Portugal first-round matches, and the third-place match between Germany and Uruguay. ...
See the full article here, courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Monday, August 16, 2010

MSRC Awards Night

On 15-AUG-2010 the Massachusetts State Referee Committee (MSRC) held its 8th annual awards night. While there is much to report on in the week ahead both about the theme of the banquet, and the individuals recognized, I wanted to take just a brief moment to recognize each for their accomplishments here.

Congratulations to all. Each honor is well deserved.

Administrator of the Year:                 Levon Akoghlanian
Assignor of the Year:                         Al Cosentino
Assessor of the Year:                         Peter Robinson
Instructor of the Year:                        Rob Akie
Young Male Referee of the Year:     Alex Wallach‐Hanson
Young Female Referee of the Year:  Kristen Sundberg
Adult Referee of the Year:                 Rusmir Bilalic
Spirit of Game:                                    Frank Hasek
Flannery Award Winner:                     Rich Filippetti
Life Member:                                      Dennis Hogan

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gregg who ??

Kicking Back Comments:
In a poor attempt to be edgy or sarcastic Greg Doyel I believe misses the biggest picture of all in his below article. If the US MNT wants to do well on the international stage, they are going to have to seek a coach likely not from this country to get it done. Xenophobia aside, the bottom line is to get the best person for the job, not the best American for the job. 

I'd hire Marvin the Martian if it would help our cause.

After all the bottom line is winning ... right Gregg? What counts is that the players are US born, not the coach. Besides, if we follow Greggo's logic, the US could not use glue, because it was patented in Britain in the 1750's. How about beer ... nope, not here either. How about THE GAME itself? Nope ... Japan 1004 B.C. Why are we sullying ourselves with such things Gregg?

Read on friends, and just see how myopic an opinion can get ... that is to say in my own myopic opinion.

Ugly truth: U.S. soccer team needs American coach

This is not a soccer story. This is an American story, and as it happens, I'm an American. Jurgen Klinsmann is not. And for me, that's where the story starts, and ends:
Klinsmann is not an American, so I don't want him coaching the U.S. soccer team.

Let him coach Germany if he wants to coach a national team. Maybe Germany won't have him back. Maybe I don't care. That's their issue, not mine. Germany has a national team. America has a national team. Let theirs coach theirs, and ours coach ours. ...

Full rant article is here, courtesy of CBS Sports.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yeah, but it's just a friendly ...

So this evening I was watching the New England Patriots play the New Orleans Saints in a pre-season gridiron football game. While not a gridiron football junkie, I do enjoy watching sometimes ... and certainly the home team whenever I can.

It got me thinking about fall and all it has to offer, including some tune up matches for some colleges or other amateur teams in the late summer, maybe even a high school match or two. It was then I remembered some advice I received a long time ago regarding such matches:

There is no such thing as a friendly match.

During these matches a referee can be at their most vulnerable. It is here that everyone involved can have the best of intentions in getting the teams together to "get the cobwebs out" or to prepare for an upcoming season. It is here however that players can lose their perspective and while not aiming to, really forget they are under the auspices of a referee.

If you accept a pre-season, scrimmage, or exhibition match, understand before hand what the expectations are. If it is a formal friendly or exhibition that is under the control of some state organization or league, chances are there is some understanding about what the expectations are and how they should be enforced. If not, you may want to find out before accepting the assignment.

That said, just because the match is not a league match does not give license to abandon the Laws Of The Game. For example, I was asked once to referee an O-30 scrimmage in my youth and "... not give any cautions". Well, you can guess what happened. I tried to oblige ... right up to the point there was a (2) footed, over the ball tackle that wound up in a fight.

Not so friendly after all.

Don't misunderstand me, there is a place for tuners. Not every match has to be a league game of some sort. Players need real game situations for practice too, and having a referee there helps. Friendlies are an essential part of what needs to happen for a team to prepare for a season or tournament.

My only point is to go into that match prepared like any other, and exercise the Laws as we have all been trained to do. Otherwise unwanted results may occur, for everyone.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I heard a rumor ...

Bob Bradley Set To Depart As US Manager
United States head coach Bob Bradley looks set depart as US manager following Tuesday's 2-0 loss to Brazil..

World Soccer Reader has learned that United States manager Bob Bradley will not stay on as manager for the next World Cup cycle. According a source, Bradley gave a short farewell speech to players and staff, thanking them for the last four years following the United States’ 2-0 loss to Brazil on Tuesday night.

We have also heard that Bradley’s departure could be revealed at a press conference as early as this week.

Bradley led the United States to a second round exit after a 2-1 extra time loss to Ghana. Contract negotiations with the United States Soccer Federation had been suspended till after the US-Brazil friendly. ...

See the whole post here, courtesy of World Soccer Reader.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FIFA now investigates allegations of player punishments in N. Korea

FIFA president Sepp Blatter confirmed today that FIFA has launched an official inquiry into allegations that North Korea mistreated some of its players and officials following their poor performance at this year’s World Cup.

Blatter stated that FIFA has written to the North Korean football federation on Tuesday to request information about the allegations and details on the election of its new president. ...
Full story here, courtesy of playthegame.org.

That will be $10,000 please ... and here is your change of $29,990,000.

Kicking back comments: 
FIFA has to be kidding with this one. From the story below you will learn that both the Spain and Dutch federations were fined for their teams deplorable conduct during the World Cup final last month. For this however the Spanish were fined about $10,000 and the Dutch about $14,500. Not each player mind you, that's the whole nut for each team. In the case of Spain, this represents about .03% of their winnings going toward this fine. In the case of the Dutch, this is doubled at a whopping .06% of their winnings.

Now theoretically such a fine is for punitive reasons, right? This is what fines are for to punish the individuals involved to keep bad behavior from repeating itself. Is this FIFA's attempt to punish these federations for bad behavior during a World Cup Final? Lets say in the case of Spain, it was $10K for everyone on the team, including managers and staff. What's that 50 people? Okay, now we are talking about $500,000, which is still small potatoes relative to what is at stake.

Does FIFA really think players are deterred by this in a World Cup setting? While this may be real money for some organizations in many situations, I would opine, it is not here. FIFA's disciplinary code entails when at least (5) players are "sanctioned" in a match, a fine is levied. I would suggest to really make it count, charge a national federation $1M on "sanction" #6, and everyone thereafter. Now we're talking! Even better, give the fines to the FIFA referee program for the training of current and future referees!

For a punitive measure to work, it has to sting a bit. Fining a national association $10,000 in the face of their $30,000,000 winnings is meaningless and does nothing to deter future behavior of the type.

FIFA should do better ... for the good of the game.

Netherlands, Spain fined for final fouls

ZURICH -- The Netherlands and Spain have been fined by FIFA for their players' lack of discipline in a bad-tempered World Cup final.
FIFA said Tuesday the Dutch federation must pay $14,480 after eight different players received yellow cards, including defender John Heitinga, who was booked a second time and sent off.
English referee Howard Webb showed five yellow cards to Spain, earning its federation a $9,650 fine. ...

Full story continues here, courtesy of ESPN.com.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today is Bradley's Day

Bob Bradley's U.S. Future Will be Decided After Tuesday's Brazil Friendly

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley confirmed Monday afternoon that he was in touch with English Premier League club Fulham during its recent search for a new manager, and that his future remains up in the air as substantive discussions with the U.S. Soccer Federation have been pushed back until after Tuesday's match against Brazil.

"People spoke to Fulham on my behalf. I did not actually speak to anyone at Fulham. I think that's simple and straightforward," Bradley said in response to a question from FanHouse here at New Meadowlands Stadium, the $1.6 billion, 82,500-seat facility that recently opened just off the New Jersey Turnpike. Fulham wound up hiring former Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City coach Mark Hughes, but Bradley's name has surfaced again today in connection with another, more high-profile English club -- Aston Villa.

Full story continues here, courtesy of soccer.fanhouse.com.

Monday, August 9, 2010

FIFA World Magazine

Not all that long ago I was had a significant layover in Germany on my way to India and I ran across the subject magazine in a Lufthansa lounge to pass the time between flights. It was a quick read, very flashy and well put together to help deliver FIFA's message.

Sure enough as I was roaming around the dark corners of FIFA site again I came across the online version of the magazine. Still a good read. Particularly the August 2010 version, which recaps the 2010 World Cup and contains a bunch of info that can be mined form a number of sources, but is all right there in a single source for anyone interested.

A very good delivery as well (the sound of the page turning is really cool). Click the thumbnail below for the August 2010 version, or here for an index. All courtesy of FIFA.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You wanna go?

For those who follow baseball, and were watching the Angels v. Detroit game on 06-AUG-2010, we were witness to a very interesting incident between plate umpire Ron Kulpa and the Angels right fielder Torii Hunter. This incident resulted in (2) ejections [the Angles Manager Mike Scioscia was also ejected], a suspension, an appeal, now turned no appeal and no doubt a huge fine.

Take a close look at the video here.

After the pitch and called strike (and it was a strike) Hunter began to argue. Note however that his body language is really quite calm. Clearly Hunter said something though as Kulpa responded to him with "... are you kidding me? Do you want to go?". Kulpa then heaved him, I would say almost half heartedly with a wry smile on his face. Both of these things got my attention right away as somewhat odd behavior from an umpire.

Hunter continued from the 8th to 14th second, palms open and up continuing to plead his case.  Take a look at Kulpa during this time ... he is looking away not paying any notice to Hunter. That is right up until the time Hunter jabbed the bill of his batters helmet into Kulpa's forehead. Well, that seemed to get Kulpa to pay a bit more attention to Hunter at that point as manager Scioscia came out and had to get between them.

Look carefully at what comes next. Tom Hallion comes in and does the smart thing and takes Hunter away and engages him in conversation. Hallion talks to Hunter, looking him in the eye and letting him vent about what just happened. Look at the 36th second of the tape, Hunter is acknowledging Hallion and finally concedes with an "OK".

Kulpa continues with Scioscia and that too results in an ejection, albeit the tape does not show that much of the discussion, but it seems more civil, and my suspicion is more theater, than the Hunter incident.

So what does this all mean?

I would opine in this situation that the whole thing was completely avoidable, all Kulpa had to do, was show Hunter some respect and listen, just for a minute. If he did that I would bet everything would have been fine. This lack of respect for a player, caused what we saw on the tape.

Let me take the alternate position though, what if Hunter said something really vile that warranted the immediate ejection. What should change to possibly avoid some of the collateral damage?

Well for starters I would never, ever invite the player to determine their own fate orally with an invitation like "You wanna go?". To do so, opens a Pandora's box that you don't want to deal with. There are no good answers or actions to that question. You are there to referee, not farm out that responsibility to the players.

Next, if Hunter did say something vile, toss him, I mean TOSS HIM! He should (proverbially) land in the next zip code if he said something like that. There was no such reaction from Kulpa if that was the case. Now, he may have been thinking that he was not going to give Hunter the pleasure of seeing him upset. Well that works for 1::1 stuff, but this was not a 1::1 moment. Everyone was watching, and Kulpa knows better. He sure knew what to do when Hunter hit him with his helmet, very quickly pointing to his own forehead - AT LEAST 3 TIMES!

This would have been cause for a different emotion ... Kulpa getting mad. There would have been far fewer questions and "gap filling" from those watching if Kulpa got really torqued, tossed Hunter, and showed the emotion, like he did after the bump (or "beak" as Kulpa has called it). His manager likely would have said a word or two to Kulpa, collected Hunter and moved on. [Yes, for those referees that want to referee at a high level, some acting is required at times. At the very least understand body language and know how to use it for people that are watching from a distance.]

Another tactic may be to the the manager involved earlier. This may be more difficult in the baseball setting, but in our case another player (not just a teammate) to get some room between you and the player. A few seconds to cool off can work wonders too.

In the final analysis Hunter deserved the (4) games he got for bumping (beaking) Kulpa. Battery on a referee, short of self defense, is never excusable, no matter the trigger. That said, in my opinion, Kulpa should sit a few too to think about how this one could have finished so much better if he just paid a little more respect to Hunter.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One of the greats ...

You probably know his name, but do you know his story?

Take a look at one of the pioneers of bringing, and keeping the game to the United States, Lamar Hunt.

Video and story here, courtesy of MLS Insider.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Brains ... and Body

Kicking Back Comments:
The other day we briefly discussed the topic of referee performance regarding what ones brain can handle, today we look briefly at the body.

There is symbiosis in refereeing where the mind and the body must be in concert to be at peak performance. Note that this "peak" can change from level to level. Clearly one will not need the fitness and training of a World Cup referee to perform optimally at a typical youth match.

That said, fitness is required for every level match, from the in-town small sided matches all the way up. There is no exception to that. One must be fit to referee, and I would opine that that fitness should be obtained before the referee enters the pitch to do the match. Game situations are not the place to improve fitness. Tactical awareness (i.e. match experience) is a different story, there is no other way to get experience except with, experience. Fitness however is different.

That said, below is an article from FIFA that details some of the plight of the referee and fitness intersecting. An interesting, quick read. Again for the record, I am not a doctor, but if you want a medical opinion go here (this one is for you Elie).

Protecting the ref

Refereeing is highly demanding, both physically and mentally, and injury prevention is as important for referees as it is for players. A referee needs to be as fit as, if not fitter than, the players, since he or she may be up to 20 years older, is rarely a full-time professional and cannot be substituted during the match. On top of the physical stress, there is also the mental strain of being in control of the match for 90 minutes under the ever watchful eye of both the bench and the public.

With this in mind, the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) has taken a close look at referee injuries and complaints. Its most recent study - Injuries of amateur football referees: a representative survey of Swiss referees officiating at all levels of play - focused on the extent and type of injuries sustained by referees at all national levels. ...

Full article continues here, courtesy of FIFA.com.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thy Cup Runnith Over

Kicking Back comments:
Special thanks to Dan O'Leary to sending this along for posting.

Following is an interesting article regarding one of the physiological aspects of refereeing, specifically about the human brain. While KB believes the author brackets the article poorly, analogizing the Lampard incident with some physiological failing (Dammit Jim, I'm an engineer, not a doctor!), instead of the positioning catch 22 that was discussed in Bye-Bye Uruguay, the article is very good at discussing the human capacity and how it intersects with refereeing. Certainly a good read to inform (or remind) us just how far we as humans can go ... for now.

Even referees' brains have their limits

DETROIT (Reuters) - It was the World Cup goal seen around the world but missed by the eyes that mattered most: England midfielder Frank Lampard's shot that dropped cleanly past the German goal line but was not given by the referee.

The avalanche of complaints about that missed call and others during the largest soccer tournament in the world raised the philosophical question of whether instant-replay technology improves games or turns them into soulless events run by a bank of blinking lights.

Scientists who study the human brain say it is surprising that bad calls do not happen more often. ...
Full article continues here, courtesy of Reuters Canada.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

You know him, you love him. John "Hannibal" Smith leader of the A-Team (played by George Peppard).

For those that do not have a clue about the reference, here is a Wikipedia entry on the topic.

What Hannibal was famous for was always having a plan going  in to a situation. Granted, that plan may not get followed by the end of the episode, but at least there was a starting point.

This is diametrically opposed to Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford), another one of my fictional heroes (and who was just at Comic-Con, for those that follow that stuff) who is known for his "figuring stuff out on the fly" mentality.

So why do I bring this up at all?

Well, I was poking around the FIFA site and came across the background paper for the additional AR experiment I blogged about the other day. There were a couple of interesting points in it. For those interested, the document can be located here on the FIFA site.

First was the depth of the paper, which was really non-existent. I was surprised for such (at least in my head) a dramatic change that it was light on detail. Of the (3) page document there was about (1 1/2) pages of true background, a (1/2) page picture and about (1/2) page of substance.

The instructions were interesting too. In essence there are (2) more ARs opposite of the "real ARs", they carry no flags, yet have a radio to communicate, and are there, it would seem, mostly for fouls. Frankly it is not clear but is strongly implied with the position directions given in the memo.

Interesting however that ARs will be used in these cases (this is explicit in the memo) and not referees. This is odd to me as you are asking the folks dedicated to calling offsides now calling probably the most tactical fouls on the pitch ... in the attacking 1/3 and behind the referee.

Don't get me wrong, ARs are more than capable, especially the ones I have had the pleasure to work with. I am just curious about the choice.

Another thing that struck me was the on field presence of these folks. There was no talk of "off the field help". I am not surprised, but would be if it remained that way after the IFAB meeting in October.

I applaud FIFA for experimenting as it is clear they need to in order to continue to elevate the game. That said I am a traditionalist and the "3 man system" is very effective when done correctly, and with the augmentation of technology or even a booth official of sorts, may make it that much better. While not traditional per se, it will do more good than harm in my opinion.

My only hope is that FIFA thought this one through and is approaching this in more of a "Hannibal" method than an "Indy" one. Both will get results, no doubt, but if a controlled experiment is what they are after, to make a decision about the future of refereeing as we know it, the details in the background paper were a little thin to give me confidence that this will be the case. I will be interested in the days ahead to watch some of these matches and see how effective this strain of the "4 man" system is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

From World Cup To High Court

Kicking Back comments:
Below is a follow up regarding of the T&T players suing the T&T FF over an agreement from the 2006 World Cup. One thing interesting outside the story to me, are some of the comments in both stories from the readers. If true they will serve as fertile ground for further discussion on topic.

From World Cup To High Court

It was the morning of October 5, 2006 when the "Soca Warriors" finally received word on bonuses promised to them by Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner--now the Minister of Works and Transport in the People's Partnership Government--for their historic qualification for the Germany World Cup.
At the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, the jaws of more than a dozen young men sagged and faces contorted as a contingent returned from the TTFF headquarters with news of their financial reward.
"How they came up with that?" asked one player.
Full story continues here, courtesy of Trinidad Express Newspapers.

T&T Players Win Suit Over T&T FF - Warner Must Be Fuming

Kicking Back comments:
Special thanks to Melissa Lawrence for tweeting this one.

Jack Warner (FIFA VP and CONCACAF President) certainly can not be happy by the ruling recently handed down, upholding an agreement between several T&T World Cup players and the T&T Football Federation. Note the time frame here, these players have been fighting to enforce the agreement they entered into prior to the 2006 World Cup.

High Court backs payments for Soca Warriors: ...TTFF ordered to honour 2006 W/Cup agreement

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) was accused of time-wasting and ordered by Acting Justice Devindra Rampersad to honour its agreement to pay bonuses to the 2006 World Cup football team, dubbed the "Soca Warriors", and legal costs, which are expected to be in excess of $3 million.

On November 19, 2008, the TTFF filed a stay of proceedings in the High Court that prevented the 16 players—since reduced to 14—from enforcing the judgment of the London-based Sport Dispute Resolution Panel (SDRP), on the grounds a supposed breach of confidentiality by the claimants "severely undermined" the defendants' faith in the SDRP and, as a result, "they no longer agree to be bound by the agreement".

See the full story here by Lasana Liburd, courtesy of Trinidad Express Newspapers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kicking Back Exclusive: Referee Development Night with the Revolution

Once in a great while an opportunity to "get inside the head" of the folks who are about to referee and assess a professional match comes around. Such an opportunity is here.

On Saturday August 28th, prior to the Revs v. Philly match, The Massachusetts State Referee Committee in cooperation with the New England Revolution will provide such an opportunity to the Massachusetts refereeing community at large.

This session will include clubhouse access prior to the match and involve a discussion what the referee team and assessor will prepare, and be on the lookout for during the match. Guest speakers will include various staff members of the MSRC along with and anticipated visit from an MLS referee and the In Stadium Observer (ISO) for the match.

Note that this interactive session will also qualify to meet the referee re-certification requirements of 2011 and on the lighter side will also feature the Rev Girls and some giveaways.

During the match, participants will sit in the stands and be invited to perform an analysis that will be submitted to MSRC. Kicking Back is in discussion with the MSRC to see if there is a way to anonymously post appropriate results here from the "group assessment" for educational purposes.

Full details are below, and more are forthcoming in the days ahead via E-Mail blasts from the MSRC and at massref.net.

For those who can not make it, Kicking Back will do a pre-match analysis here on the 27th, and also be reporting on the evenings events. However, seeing is believing.

To pre-enroll for this event, go to: www.massref.net
For tickets, call 1-877-GET-REVS and reference "Referee Development Night" to access discount.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Et tu, Brute?

Earlier in the week I opined about what Tony Hawyard and referees have in common ... which is they basically both get blamed for things that are nearly completely out of their control. Well in a very similar vein, and very relevant to our discussions here, are how players are treated at times for things that are completely out of their control.

Take a look at the story below from Justin McCurry of the Guardian, describing the excoriation the North Korea team, and what they had to endure after coming home from the World Cup. My statement in a vacuum is not political in nature, but the reality is that politics of that region, or regime, plays a role no doubt in what happened in how poorly these players were treated after the fact.

It also makes be briefly reflect on Capello and his index, and if there would have been the same amount of "outrage" if the UK had fared better.

So while referees are certainly a favorite target of unjustified outrage, we certainly do not stand alone as the North Korea team has joined us apparently, for the time being.

North Korea's failed World Cup footballers undergo public mauling

Footballers subjected to six-hour excoriation on stage for 'betraying' North Korea and Kim Jong-il's son and heir
England's failed footballers should count themselves lucky that their ignominious World Cup exit was met with little more than a public mauling by the media.
Their counterparts from North Korea, who lost all three of their group games, have been subjected to a six-hour excoriation for "betraying" the communist nation's ideological struggle, according to reports.
There are even fears for the safety of the team coach, Kim Jung-hun, who was accused of betraying the son and heir of the regime's "dear leader," Kim Jong-il.
Full story continues here, courtesy of guardian.co.uk.