Sunday, October 31, 2010

NFL to take a play out of the MLS playbook

I am shocked ... and this is not sarcastic play.
I am genuinely shocked.

The NFL just now is deciding to have a weekly conference call with its officials to discuss points of emphasis, as reported here by ESPN.

My very first reaction was, "you mean these guys were not doing this already?"

My very next though was how reactive this was given the several incidents that occurred in the last couple of weeks on the grid iron. My thoughts went then to the above though that I was surprised it has not been done before.

Wash - rinse - repeat.

Since MLS was around, referees, and in some cases ARs, have a weekly call to discuss the previous week, and to hear any additional points of emphasis for the following week.

It was not uncommon for an individual referee to have to explain an incident to the whole of the call as to what happened and the "behind the scenes" and why.

These were excellent calls, and I can speak from experience they were very humbling when it was my turn (yes I was indeed called on the carpet once) to stand up and explain how I screwed up and how it could be done better for the next referee.

Let me repeat, I am shocked the NFL is not doing this.

While I am at times critical of US Soccer, this is an area in which they shine ... and outshine the NFL. Instructional material.

For those who have not done so, visit the Week In Review, and poke around. Now THAT is instructional information. Paul, Herb, and the National Staff do an excellent job of preparing this information for general consumption.

So what compares for the NFL?

A simple recitation of the rules, no interpretation, no outreach, no nothing that I can see.

With the tens of billions of dollars that the NFL is worth, I am glad to see they putting some of that money to good use, and holding a weekly conference call for their referees ... now. Something the much less funded US Soccer and MLS has done over ten years ago, and continue to do today.

Better late the never I guess. I do wonder however what else the NFL can learn from MLS?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

“the biggest gangster you will find on earth”

FIFA: Credibility crisis continues as former scribe affirms body’s corrupt

By Patrick Omorodion

As world’s football governing body, FIFA tries to get over the cash for vote bribe allegation which hit it a fortnight ago and has temporarily consumed two of its Executive Committee members, Dr Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Tahitian, Reynald Temarii, the body seems not to have heard the last of such stench of sleaze.
The latest which has really portrayed FIFA as a corrupt organisation is coming not from an outsider like the Sunday Times of London did, but from someone who was an insider and should know because he stated so to undercover reporters. ...
See the full story herecourtesy of Vanguard.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Stains in your suit"

Scathing article from Monsters & Critics describing that dealing with FIFA "always stains your suit", and just how far reaching the corruption goes within the organization.

See the very unflattering (to FIFA) blow by blow here, courtesy of Monsters & Critics.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Hilarius story from Running a Hospital about soccer, a turkey, and a goal.

All courtesy of Paul Levy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Requiescat In Pace

Paul the Octopus: January 2008 - October 26, 2010.

News of his passing stunned the world today, as there were over 1500 articles about his death as of this writing.

He apparently died of natural causes in his tank overnight. A life expectancy of 2.5 year is not uncommon for some octopus species.

FIFA has announced it will not launch an investigation into Paul's passing, as their investigative arm is otherwise engaged in a corruption investigation for World Cup votes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just throw the flag

Simple is better.

I have felt that way most of my life about just about everything. In fact when I find myself trying to over-complicate things, my approach is to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks to deal with.

During the day on Sunday I was watching week 7 of NFL games in earnest to wait for the first big helmet to helmet hit to see what the referees were going to do. I saw no such hit.

I did see a bunch of good legal hits, and even ones that I would have considered "on the edge." There was one trend I did notice however, the celebration of the defensive player who made such a hit, regardless of the gain that had just occurred.

This was odd to me, celebrating just tackling someone. Now I can see a sack being celebrated (tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage when they are in possession of the ball), or a play that results in a turnover or similar possession change. But just a run of the mill tackle with such celebration?

It got weirder ...

After watching a few games I noticed that more than a few touchdown celebrations were very muted. A team that just scored, really did not celebrate.


I wonder if it is the NFL's current policy on "excessive celebration" that has something to do with it? Now I agree, there was a point in time when things were a bit out of control. Take TO's "sharpie gate" for one. It is tough to argue that end zone celebrations were going a bit too far, but has the NFL gone too far in instructing referees to decry ANY such activity?

Compare with today's game and the hits that are leveled on players, and the accompanying celebration. Is THAT going too far in the wrong direction? My answer is yes.

Today NFL referees are being asked to decide metaphysical questions regarding helmet to helmet hits. Did he mean it? What was the intent? All of this at warp speed.

My solution is simple to put a little sanity back in the game. If a player excessively celebrates after tackling another, penalize them for excessive celebration.

Still bust them for the helmet to helmet stuff, but also take some time to prevent the seeds of those types of hits from growing, by getting everyone to calm down, just a little.

Throw the flag.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Know before you go & the Law 7 fandango

I was first introduced to this particular phrase when I started flying small planes (yet another soccer story unto itself as I was introduced by current Massachusetts SRA, Andy Weiss). It refers to the fact that a pilot needs to know about the destination, and the route in between, before you even set foot on the tarmac. To do otherwise invites disaster. Over this last weekend I experienced such a scenario that illustrates this point, and how it was affected by the Laws Of The Game (LOTG). While it was not a disaster by any means, in another match, at another level, it would have been.

As we have discussed before, the LOTG allow for variation of the Laws themselves only in certain situations, they include:

• Size of the field of play
• Size, weight and material of the ball
• Size of the goal
• Duration of the periods of play
• Substitutions

Further modifications are only allowed with the consent of the International Football Association Board.

In this particular match (U-10), the referee played a 25 minute first half. The modified LOTG call for a 30 minute half. Here's when the interesting stuff happened.

To this referee's great credit, they thought they had made a mistake, and asked how long we typically played. While this had the effect of demonstrating to everyone that the referee was not sure about how much time was to be played, it also had the effect of a referee who genuinely wanted to do the right thing.

At this point the referee after playing 25 minutes, informed us that we were going to play a 30 minute second half.

I had to bite my lip a little.

Why? Because Law 7 requires "two equal periods". An excellent explanation is here at Ask A Soccer Referee.

So what could have the referee done, when they learned about the correct timing of the match to keep with the laws?

Play the rest of the first half.

This may sound weird, but to adhere to the laws and the rules of the competition, you have to march the teams back out from halftime and play the remainder of the first half. Then, and only then, can you begin the second half.

If you just begin the second half, and play equal periods (in this case another 25 minute half), then you breach the rules of competition by not playing the correct length match. This may give rise to a merited protest as well at it has nothing to do with the discretion of the referee. Not good.

If you extend the second half to the right duration (in this case a 30 minute half), then you breach Law 7 regarding "equal periods." As before, this may give rise to a merited protest as well at it has nothing to do with the discretion of the referee. Not good - again.

From this there are (2) things to keep in mind:

  1. Know the rules of the competition BEFORE you take the field for a match.
  2. Understand that Law 7 requires "equal periods", (this does exclude any extra time of course). Half, means half.
When in doubt, do what this referee did ... just ask. Be sure to do so BEFORE the first whistle though.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From the mouth of babes

Jr. and I were on our way to some event the other day and we were talking about his upcoming matches at the local indoor soccer facility near our town. He was generally excited, but stopped for a second, mid-description, and said something that make me think.

Jr.: You know what I really like about playing indoor?
PK: Because its fast paced?

Jr.: Nope. It's because of the referee. The one with the glasses.
PK: Really? What about him?

Jr.: He's very nice and takes time to help us when we have a question.
PK: Don't other referees do that?

Jr.: No. Only him so far.

Now I sat back and thought about all those youth matches I did, and wondered how those players perceived me. It was again a reminder that those little sponges out there are picking up on everything going on, and are taking notes along the way. Jr. has not seen this particular referee (who is really a nice guy) for almost a year, yet described him clear as a bell. Amazing.

It was also clear that the youth referee holds a particular responsibility in this regard as well, not only as ambassador of the game, but also teacher, as those little minds are looking to us as referees for how we treat the game, and its participants, in our position of authority.

I urge us all to teach them well. After all, they are the future of the game we all hold dear.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Upgrade Kudos!

As we have done here in the past, I would like again to congratulate the following referees who have recently been upgraded to Grade 7 (Referee 1st Class).

Congratulation to you all.

Kristen Sundberg
Genci Kutrolli
Zachary Levin
Jo-Ellen Rowley

Think it's just football ... think again

With the fervor about helmet to helmet contact in the NFL that we spoke about the other day, and the life long damage it can cause in an athlete, it can be easy to forget that concussions are a serious issue  in a sport such as soccer. It all too often is associated with sports perceived to be "rougher", like grid iron football.

Lori Chalupny, midfielder for the Atlanta Beat, and US National team has sustained several head injuries in her role, and may be forced to retire because of it. A good report from the Washington Post about how these injuries can manifest in a player and how debilitating they are.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Who really blew the call

So if anyone follows grid iron football, week 6 was interesting from the perspective that $175K in fines were handed out to (3) players for what has been termed "violent hits." I am not here to question the wisdom of the fines, although some did state that James Harrison makes $20 Million a year, and the $75K he was fined was a pittance to him. One funny point is that the NFL fined Harrison about 3 times what FIFA fined both Spain and the Netherlands (all players on both teams!!) for their poor behavior in the 2010 World Cup final.

What caught my eye were some of the comments from Ray Anderson, VP of operation for the NFL, who told that the referees missed it by not penalizing Harrison for unsporting like conduct after the hit to the Cleveland Browns Mohamed Massaquoi.

From the article:
The hit should have been flagged for Harrison whacking a defenseless receiver in the helmet, the kind of hit that was a point of emphasis this offseason for the league's 17 officiating crews. But it got no flag.
He's no dummy, and started to right the ship on the next comment, at least partially using the royal "we":
"We missed a call,'' Anderson said. "That call should have been made.''
So let me get this straight, the NFL has suddenly decided after (6) weeks they prefer their players conscious and that helmet to helmet hits are a bad thing, and in response, in relevant part, the VP of operations is blaming the referee.

Your kidding right?

The players and referees will go as far as the league will let them. That is the nature of the professional game, football or soccer. For a very long time NFL has enjoyed the fame associated with "big hits" and similar hype that went along with it. The NFL is a marketing machine, and this play was a part of that.

For the NFL to implicate anyone but themselves for failings to patrol such behavior, sees a bit self serving to me. For my money the NFL blew the call a long time ago, not the guys calling the game on Sunday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

FIFA Launches probe into two bidding countries

In the ever widening net of investigation from FIFA, it is being reported that in addition to the (6) FIFA officials being provisionally suspended as part of their investigation, it is now being reported by the BBC that FIFA has launched a separate inquiry into two of the bidding nations.

Both Spain and Portugal (Iberia) who are are making a joint 2018 bid, and Qatar who is making a bid on 2022 are now under separate investigation.

Officials from neither the Iberian or Qatar delegations have yet responded.

What comes up, comes down

Massachusetts National and FIFA Referees circa 2003
(L to R Claudio Badea, Erich Simmons, John Matthew, Rachel Woo, Niko Bratsis, Jen Bennett, Gus St. Silva, Tom Supple)
Just the other day I was informed about the retirement of a log time Massachusetts, turned California FIFA referee, Jennifer Bennett. Since 2002 Jen has served those whom she represented with distinction and humility. During her time in Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to work with Jen in a variety of contexts and believe today, as I did then, she is one of the very best.

In reflecting on retirement generally, I again heard the words of refereeing legend, Angelo Bratsis in my head stating that "... going up is much easier than coming down." Truer words have never been spoken about both mountaineering and refereeing, which hold amazing similarities to each other.

Over the last 6 months or so when I have been very actively reengaging the soccer community, it at times has been a conscious thought if I acted the right way on the way up, as I intend to now on the way down. Fortunately my answer has always come back "yes", but am not so convinced that that will always be my answer.

It would be easy to say that I was so singularly focused on becoming a FIFA referee that I sometimes forgot about the typical pleasantries that others may have found offensive. Or maybe just a punk kid with an attitude problem at times that shot his mouth off. Both would seem to apply to me at times in my life.

I know for a fact that not everyone was sad to see me go from pro soccer when I did for a variety of reasons. None of which are really relevant here. Looking back over the landscape that I traveled I also realize that some would feel that way regardless of how, or who, left the professional refereeing ranks.

What is critical (and I speak generally as well as specifically here) are really two things at this juncture.

First, as an ambassador of the game, it is critical to remember to treat THE game, and all of its participants with the appropriate amount of respect. Granted this is not always easy to do, and reasonable minds can disagree, but it is critical to maintain decorum.

Second, as the title states, what comes up, comes down and this includes referees careers. For me I am trying to reinvent myself from active referee to one who can help referees get where they want to go through discourse. We will see where that winds up. Others will have different paths for sure, but it should be evident that one will likely be treated the same way down, as they treated those on the way up.

My suggestion, be nice. It's a long way down.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FIFA Suspends six as investigation continues

FIFA Executive Committee members Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii from Tahiti have been provisionally suspended pending the outcome of the investigation of the Ethics Committee.

Further, Slim Aloulou of Tunisia, Amadou Diakite of Mali, Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga, and Ismael Bhamjee of Botswana were also provissionally suspended for ethics violations in connection with the investigation.

During a cursory search for these gentlemen, the following corruption case was also unearthed about Mr. Bhamjee and led to his resignation from the FIFA executive Committee back in 2006.

FIFA press release of the event including the live event can be found here.

Hijo got the Benzo

Our little friend to the left here, benzodiazepine, is a psychoactive drug.

In gardening vernacular, it gets into your squash and affects your central nervous system. It is a sedative and anti-anxiety drug.

The first benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide (Librium), was discovered accidentally by Leo Sternbach in 1955, and made available in 1960 by Hoffmann–La Roche, which has also marketed diazepam (Valium) since 1963 ... or so says Wikipedia.

No, I am not engineer, turned lawyer (almost), turned pharmacist. This is the latest drama to unfold in front of our eyes at a 2nd division soccer match in Peru.

Seems that an unidentified member of Sport Ancash’s coaching staff has been accused of giving players from opposing team Hijos de Acosvinchos water laced with Benzo. This after four of them passed out in the waning moments of their Peruvian second-division game.

Seeing is believing, so look at the article and video here.

Seeking comments after the match, reporters asked Sport Ancash President José Mallaqui how the opposing players wound up with benzo in their bloodstream.

In confirming the hospital results, Mallaqui said to, and I quote:
“I was able to find out that the players ate rotisserie chicken and had some energy drinks before the game, which ended up hurting them ...".
KFC and Red Bull caused this?


Best part of the whole thing was that Sporting Ancash still lost the game 3-0.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update: World Cup Vote Investigation

Well, it looks like a busy day for FIFA as they have decided to widen their investigation considerably into the vote buying scandal. This would seem to include the national organizations that are in the bid process and may lead to suspensions of these national associations.

Claudio Sulser, who chairs FIFA's ethics committee has been tasked with figuring out just what exactly is going on, and has been asked by Sepp Blatter to do so "without delay." This statement may have some significant teeth in it as the vote to determine who will be hosting the next World Cup is due on 02-DEC-2010. Many have stated publicly that holding such a vote under a cloud of such malfeasance would be inappropriate. I agree with that decision.

It is no doubt heating up as we race to the finish on who will host the next Cup. For anyone who is keeping score, England, Russia, Spain & Portugal, and Holland & Belgium are in competition for the 2018 tournament, while the USA, Australia, Qatar, Japan, and Korea are the candidates for 2022.

While some have praised Sepp Blatter for his quick action to this matter, I am far more cynical. Why? Maybe it was my reading of Foul! The secret world of FIFA, or maybe the reports of open bribery that has gone on in the past, and seems to be within the very fabric of THE game itself, with little or no substantive action from FIFA.

John Leicester states it well in his AP article, "In judging votes-for-sale allegations, FIFA must act for the good of the game" where he takes a no nonsense approach. If your are found to be involved, you go. Period.

FIFA has an opportunity here, a real opportunity to show that they are serious about corruption of the game. To do so they should consider doing the following:
  1. Indefinitely suspend the vote on 02-DEC until Mr. Sulser's investigation is complete.
  2. On a finding of Bribery (section 11), Commission (section 12), Duty of disclosure (section 14), (see FIFA's code of ethics here) Summarily dismiss the members of the executive committee and any from any national associations who are involved.
  3. On appeal, convene the Appeal Committee to hear the appeal and mete the appropriate punishment from sections 17 and 18 of the code of ethics.
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 for all individuals involved.
  5. Sanction the national associations themselves possibly by the very drastic step of excluding them from hosting a World Cup for some set number of years both as punishment for those national associations, and reminder for future ones.
  6. Once all discipline has been publicly announced, convene an emergency session of the executive committee to allow an open vote so the world can see who will be getting the next Cup.
With this, FIFA would be able to gain a tremendous amount of credibility in showing it was serious about rooting out corruption, "For the good of the game."

I'd swear I've seen this somewhere before

Government Exhibit "D" - Dianne Wilkerson Trial
When I woke up this morning I was treated to a story that created waves on two fronts for me.

From the WSJ (paper version) I looked at the page 1 teased story (continued on A10), reporting that FIFA is investigating (2) executive committee members accused of taking bribes in exchange for their upcoming vote to determine who would be hosting the 2018 World Cup.

Now that was enough to wake me up in the early morning and poke around to see what was going on. Further however was the last paragraph of the print article, that was not online, that has Sunil Gulati essentially shouting from the rooftops that the US was not involved in any aspect of the reporting that resulted in the story. Yet in other parts of the WSJ story, we have this:
Video on the Sunday Times website allegedly shows Mr. Amadu telling an undercover reporter that he wanted to build four artificial soccer fields at a cost of $200,000 each and that the money could be paid to him "directly." When the reporter asked whether the payment would help Mr. Amadu make his decision in favor of the U.S. bid in some way, he responded: "Obviously it will have an effect. Of course it will have an effect. It will have an effect. Because certainly if if you are to invest in that, that means you also want the vote."
I am not sure how to square the comments from Mr. Amadu, and Mr. Gulati as it would seem that Mr. Amadu was approached by someone who was interested in the US receiving his vote for $800K. I would find it hard to believe that just anyone representing the US could make such an offer. Access to members of the FIFA executive committee would appear to be somewhat limited.

Now a disclaimer. I am not accusing anyone of any wrong doing, just pointing out the facts that:
  1. FIFA has launched an investigation into the bribery of (2) executive committee members regarding their vote for the hosting of the World Cup.
  2. A FIFA executive committee member (Mr. Amadu) has been spotted on video by The Sunday Times of London suggesting that a direct payment of $800K would "have an effect" on the vote for the US bid. 
  3. U.S. Soccer has made a decision to pull out of the bidding for the 2018 World Cup and focus on the 2022 World Cup.
  4. U.S. Soccer president, Sunil Gulati has adamantly denied any involvement in any bribery of FIFA officials, which would appear to be appropriate as Times reporters set up the sting.
  5. All of this happened on or very close to 15-OCT-2010.
I welcome the readers to draw their own conclusion with these and the further facts that are certain to emerge from this developing story.

As I stated in the title, I have seen something like this before as it reminded me of the video that was filmed by the FBI during the collection of evidence against the Massachusetts politician Dianne Wilkerson. She ultimately plead guilty to several counts of attempted extortion and is due to be sentenced in the next few weeks.

To me this situation, sans the conviction, is strikingly similar as it demonstrates the willingness of people to use their position of power for their personal interests (and getting caught on video taking a bribe). FIFA, like Massachusetts politics has a history of corruption associated with it, which is not a surprise as there is a tremendous amount at stake. I would opine much more for the hosting of a World Cup than the grant of a liquor license, but the point remains.

One other thing to consider is those who choose to approach one of these figures who are able to influence a license grant or election. Little has been reported about those who sought out Ms. Wilkerson's grant of a license, and little has yet to be reported about those who approached the FIFA executive committee members, other than one was doing so for the sake of the US.

There is a part of me who can appreciate those efforts, however maybe not for the same reasons as those seeking to bribe the officials, as a World Cup here in the US would certainly bolster THE game here and give the US a much needed shot in the arm of the international game. I do personally believe however that the Women's World Cup would be a better choice for the US as it is that game that seems to be suffering the most on our shores. In either event, while I appreciate the result should it occur, I can not condone the method. Cheating is cheating. This is not a case of taking advantage of a "favorable business environment."

We shall see how this one evolves, as this may be too big for even FIFA to ignore, and may even halt the vote of the venue for the 2018 World Cup until this gets sorted out.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE1 19-OCT 09:52 EDT:
See the comment below from cy stating that the folks who made the bribe were UK reporters. This was not reported in the WSJ, but I am assuming was in the Times.

This would clearly take US Soccer off the hook, but continues to make me wonder if anyone posing as a delegate (why did these reporters choose the US?) could approach an official and do this ...

Thanks cy for the update.

Monday, October 18, 2010

US Out of 2018 World Cup Bid

USA Bid Committee To Focus on 2022 FIFA World Cup

NEW YORK (October 15, 2010) –The USA Bid Committee announced today that it has withdrawn from the 2018 FIFA World Cup bid and will exclusively focus on the 2022 campaign. 

The decision comes after several months of careful deliberation with FIFA, UEFA and members of the USA Bid Board of Directors. Four European candidates now remain in the race for 2018 (Belgium/Netherlands, England, Russia and Spain/Portugal). Since the FIFA Statutes indicate that the competition cannot be held on the same continent on two successive occasions, the 2022 campaign will now be between Australia, Japan, Korea Republic, Qatar and the United States. ...

See the full article here courtesy of US Soccer.

A Tale of Two Cities

The other day I was engaged in what is quickly becoming a ritual for me on the weekend. Assess a match in the AM, coach Junior in the midday, and assess another match in the late PM.

For whatever reason, this series struck a particular chord with me as I had the opportunity to traverse two very distinct parts of the state to assess a competition in the same sport, with very different surroundings.

In the morning, I was in central Massachusetts at Progin Park. This is truly a marvelous complex. Wide open spaces and farmland as far as the eye could see (I even stopped at a farm stand for a peck of empire apples on the way to Jr.'s match). It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, even when the match was going on. A sleepy Saturday morning was barley interrupted by a very competitive adult league match, and the smell of cool clean air was abound.

In the afternoon however it was the opposite in many regards. In the shadow of the John Hancock building, at a local urban high school, another adult league match was played. This environment while beginning fairly quietly, continued with the raucous sounds of emergency vehicles speeding by, loud Latin music, and a chorus of epithets yelled at the referees, players, and coaching staffs alike from the spectators voicing their displeasure about a variety of things in no fewer than 3 languages. Further, the (delicious) smell of food for the teams cooking on charcoal grills brought by the teams was wafting through the air as the sun set.

What's the point you ask? Everyone was there for the same reason, THE game.

While the players came from different backgrounds, the intent of the gathering, and the result, was exactly the same, to play a game.

This may seem exceedingly obvious to some, and in some regards it is to me as well. However for more than a moment, sitting there in Boston, watching a match, it continued to crystallize to me just how much of a unifying force THE game is.

You could take any number of the teams and move them around, even go to a completely different location, tell a few folks about it and they will show up to watch the game. It's kind of amazing really. This is not (generally) due to being forced to go, or some sense of obligation, people genuinely wanted to be there.

I watched spectators in both matches freezing their a$$es off watching these matches and players (some well past their prime) doing the same and chancing injury, just to get together for a couple of hours. Afterwards, everyone shook hands, thanked each other for the match, and left to have a meal and spend more time together in a more relaxed social setting, adding to the social fabric of the universe in the process. All in the name of a game.

Soccer is life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Then and Now

From an earlier post I opined that the route the modern referee takes is very different from the way a previous generation referee was trained.

[Editor note: I dare not say "older referee" as (1) I am turning into one before my very eyes, and (2) there are some of these legendary referees who read this blog and would not hesitate to take me out to the woodshed should I use that term =)]

While referees in how they are brought up through the ranks has changed, what about the game?

Well here is a very interesting article that opines that some older legendary players, would not have made it in todays game as to some the game in turning into a non-contact sport.

Harris: Moore would incur modern refs' wrath

LONDON - Even England's 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore, who turned tackling into an art form, would fall foul of modern referees, former Chelsea defender Ron Harris said on Tuesday.
"Bobby was the greatest tackler there was but if he had been playing today he would have been getting cards all over the place, week in week out," Harris, whose uncompromising approach in the 1970s earned him the nickname "Chopper", told Reuters in an interview. ...
The full article is here, and provides an interesting opinion about where the game may be going, courtesy of

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Liverpool "Red Sox" (Credit to CW Rice)

Liverpool sold to Red Sox owners

LONDON—Liverpool was sold to the owners of the Boston Red Sox on Friday after a bitter trans-Atlantic court fight with the previous American owners over the storied English soccer club.

The $476 million deal with New England Sports Ventures ends the turbulent three-year ownership by Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.

The sale went through after Hicks and Gillett withdrew the temporary restraining order they had obtained in a Texas court. Later, they also dropped their claim for $1.6 billion in damages. ...

Full story continues here, courtesy of the Boston Globe.

Friday, October 15, 2010

True to his word

Back a few months ago, Sepp Blatter and IFAB were in discussions about goal line technology in an effort to assist referees with such incidents. I have to be honest, I did not think the effort would get as far as is currently being reported by several news outlets.

At this stage there is apparently an evaluation that will be launched into the 13 companies vying for an opportunity to be the official company to provide goal line technology for FIFA.

This is assuming that it gets that far ...

One aspect that needs consideration is that effect on the referees who have to use the technology. When I was on the way up we would be asked to evaluate new technologies from time to time such as various time keeping devices, uniforms, and communication devices such as the famous "beeper flags."

Interesting too as I saw this from not only the inside out as a referee with US Soccer, but also the outside in as my role as engineer with a company named Trakus, where we worked with the NHL refereeing ranks to test the feasibility of real time tracking of professional hockey games. Of particular concern to the engineering involved was to assure the technology was unobtrusive to the referee doing their job, and seamless in appearance.

I hope these 13 companies recognize this, and give the referees the voice to work with the engineers to better the product to make it both effective and invisible to those viewing. In my estimation, this will be the only way for such technology to succeed in FIFA's eyes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is it worth it?

I am very lucky. I was one of the generation of referees who was given the glorious opportunity to traverse the entire spectrum of matches in the United States from local youth matches, to professional (MLS) and international matches.

Those referees who came before this generation were not given the opportunity to experience the youth game in the US but largely came from the ranks of ethnic league matches, which in their own right served as excellent preparation for the professional (NASL) and international game.

Both routes have their merits and have produced exceptional referees such as David Socha, Angelo Bratsis, Jen Bennett, and Tom Supple. Currently however, there is a particular purgatory that every youth referee making their way through the ranks must endure. It is the often surreal dealings with the youth fan(atic).

This single topic alone would take up chapters of books I will write some day about my experience and those of my peers who had to struggle as a youth, and a youth referee, to find their way through the fog of youth sports.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe soccer is unique in this respect as adults in all youth sports seem to loose their marbles at times. Nor do I believe that all adult participants are responsible for such behavior as I have had so many more positive experiences than very negative ones. The issue of course is that the very negative ones leave a much stronger and lasting impression.

Recently I was reintroduced to a long time friend of THE game, Paul Levy, who in his blog, Running A Hospital (now linked at right also), wrote an excellent article, entitled "Dear Coach", about just how wide an effect such conduct can have on the participants of a match, not just the referee. From the article:

Dear Coach,
I was refereeing your team's game yesterday afternoon in the Natick Columbus Day soccer tournament. (This was eleven-year-old boys.) You didn't like one of the calls I made, the one awarding a penalty kick to the other team. You demonstrated this, first, by throwing your clipboard energetically on the ground and yelling. Even after the kick was taken -- and missed -- you loudly yelled out to me across the field in complaint. ...

I implore you all to read this as it eloquently details the plight of the youth referee today and what they must endure for the sake of a group of children trying to have fun playing a game. The blog itself is excellent also, and provides a wealth of information on a variety of topics I am finding fascinating.

So from all of this I have one question to ask and answer for the youths growing up as youth soccer referees across the United States: Is it worth it?

My answer: An unequivocal Yes.

Your question: Why?

Well, that too could take up chapters of books I have yet to write, about how soccer can be transformative to life itself and provides such tremendous opportunities to learn some life lessons that so often are never realized without that spark to do so. THE game provides that spark.

To be sure, these are heady topics, and ones that were furthest from my mind as a teenager trying to do their best at managing a group of children playing a game, while reconciling the truly brutal affronts of some adults who were maligning all the participants for their efforts. I do not believe my teenage situation to be unique, this is happening all over the world.

This is the fog of the youth game today. This is the plight of the youth referee.

It is not the end of the story however. There are ways through the fog. Family, friends, and a host of communities such as the refereeing community itself. There are those out there who have been through the fog and want nothing more to help others do the same. I urge you to take advantage of those people. They can help.

For me I also found solace in a birthday card my dad gave to me. To this very day, it makes me stop and think about how to get through that fog. I offer it here for any in the fog of the youth game today.

If - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chilean Miners

I just watched the news coverage about the Chilean miners who were finally rescued after 69 days underground. The story is captivating to say the least, and it takes a special kind of person to survive that experience.

During their confinement, their lifeline to the surface was a small hole through which was sent the essentials they needed, such as food and antibiotics to fight infection.

To combat boredom, they were also sent tapes from soccer games, including a live feed of their National team playing a match on September 09 against the Ukraine. (click here for full story)

Soccer is Life!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Things Have Changed

When I was a kid and wanted to play soccer, I would pump a little air into the beat up old ball in my garage and just start walking to the local park. By the time I got to the playground I would have picked up a few other kids along the way, and joined in with whatever crowd was hanging around and got a game going. Maybe it would be 6 players on a team, or maybe 15, but we worked it all out, without referees.

Now we have organization. Now there are lots of people that work behind the scenes in order to get soccer games played. For every organized game you see there are probably more people not playing than playing. From local volunteers who may line the fields, to the trainers, coaches and referees, to the administrators who make out the schedules, on and on it goes. There are layers of people who work at the game in state, regional and national levels, all trying to get the games played.

All of these people are just as passionate about the game as are the players themselves.

And so it was that I found myself in Philadelphia over the last three days, surrounded by about 200 of these dedicated people, who were there to discuss such weighty issues as secondary insurance coverage and whether two or four people should be added to their Board of Directors.

There was not much talk about soccer. In fact, if it were not for the predominance of soccer-logo apparel being worn, a casual observer would have never imagined this was a meeting of the leaders in a sports organization. It sounded more like a general shareholder meeting of a Fortune 500 company.

Don’t get me wrong, the discussions were heated and at one or two times, downright contentious. These are passionate people, as I mentioned. But, just like after a hard-fought game at the local park, when the boardroom battles were over we were all able to go to the bar and drink a few pints together. (Well, maybe we did not go have a few pints when I was a kid, but substitute a can of tonic and you get the idea.)

Sometimes I don’t know if organization is always the best thing for sports. The games look nicer; the fields are more evenly laid out than the makeshift patches of ground we staked out as children, when two well-placed trees often served as goalposts. The uniforms are definitely classier, since we had none. There are lots of people that play soccer now, so I guess that means things are better.

But somehow I find myself lamenting the passing of a time when all of the extraneous BS surrounding a game did not exist, and we could just walk down to the park and play.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A funny thing happened........

So EPL is not playing this weekend (EURO2012 games), England does not have a game until Tuesday, so what should I watch....

Scanning the channels had me stopping at a Spanish channel showing Futbol Mexico. It was a Premier Division game. A couple of minutes was spent checking out the TV settings, is the ball really pink ?? Yes it is and hopefully in support of one of my favorite charities.

Referee awards a direct free kick to the attacking team about 10 yards out from the Penalty Area, ideal ceremonial free kick conditions. Traditonal kicker/defender/referee exchange of pleasantaries occurs at the ball. It becomes apparent that the kicker has asked for 10 yards. From his pocket, the referee takes out a spray can, sprays a short white line on the grass in front of the ball, paces 10 yards and then sprays another white line on the grass. The defensive wall lines up on the second white line and the kick is taken.
Research so far has not revealed that this is anything more than an experiment in Mexico.

Later, I watched highlights of SJ v DC. Other than the goals, the highlight(lowlight) for me fell in the realm of 'what will commentators say next'. An altercation between 2 players lead to both being sent off, with the apoplectic commentator telling his audience how bad the officials are because 'it is not allowed to show 2 red cards at the same time' HUH!!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Programming Note

Dear followers of Kicking Back:
Over the next few days I am going to be traveling and relatively "unplugged" (one might say "kicking back" - sorry). During that time I do not have any posts "in the can" ready to go (despite having lots of ideas), and will not be near any place that I will be able to post.

To that end, I leave you all to your wares and what looks like in this part of the US to be a very nice long weekend. I implore you all to get out and play/coach/referee/assess this weekend, as it looks like a beauty.

As always, JAFO and Nigel may jump in and sprinkle their wisdom on the topic du jour, however will be engaged no doubt in their own right. I will enjoy reading any posts should they do so, on my return.

Good weekend to all and thanks for reading.

Byron Moreno Follow Up

Kicking back comments:
There are a couple of recent developments about this matter reported on earlier. 

First, is the fact that (shock) FIFA is not going to investigate the matter. Why you may ask? Ted Howard the Secretary General of CONCACAF, who also serves of the FIFA referee committee states that the referee committee is not an investigative body.

Now lets see, it has been stated that this referee was "ordered" to throw the ITA-KOR match and that corruption at the highest levels is going on, implying that FIFA referees are being corrupted, yet they won't investigate? Let's reflect briefly back to the World Cup this year. How many times was there an incident, and how many times was there an investigation? I would opine each, and every. Investigations at times ended a referees career. FIFA sees no issue investigating there.

Now, to be fair Howard may have meant any outside the field incidents such as this could not be investigated. But that too holds little water as FIFA at least sent a letter to North Korea to "investigate" if the North Korean World Cup team was being treated humanely.

Or it just may go under the adage that you can't find what you don't seek.

See a story here, that details some of these facts, courtesy of

Second, is how Mr. Moreno is doing in prison, and what continues to be a difficult road.

Byron Moreno Denies Trying To Commit Suicide & Receives Prison Counselling Following Drugs Arrest
The former referee Byron Moreno is receiving counselling in prison, but did not attempt suicide.

The former referee from Ecuador, infamous for his World Cup 2002 exploits in the match between South Korea and Italy, was arrested at John F. Kennedy airport, New York, for allegedly being in possession of six kilograms of heroin on September 21. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where is FIFA now?

When Togo Played Bahrain, the Whole Match Was a Fake
Taking the Field as African Nation's Team, Impostors Lose Game but Net Fees

Bahrain's national soccer team needed to prepare for an important game. So it jumped at a chance to invite Togo, a small West African country with a highly regarded soccer team, to play an exhibition match.
At least $60,000 was spent on flights, hotels and other expenses, and in early September, the Bahrain team lined up against 11 players in Togo jerseys. The Togo players weren't as good as the Bahrainians expected, and the Persian Gulf team won 3-0.
In Togo's capital, Lomé, the Togo Football Federation was surprised not so much by the team's poor showing as by the game itself: On Sept. 7 the Togo team wasn't actually in Bahrain—but on a bus returning from an official game in Botswana.
TFF officials say the team in Bahrain was a fake one, which they suspect was organized by someone wishing to pocket some of the money spent on the event. ...
See the full article here, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows?

Credit to John Utter for spotting this one. It seems that Bolivian President President Evo Morales kneed an opposing player in the groin during a weekend soccer match against a team of political rivals after an apparent hard foul by the opponent. Read the story and see the video clip here.

This is an example about how the passions of sport transcend normal confines of behavior. Sports test our mettle and apply pressure that is unequaled in any other venue. We compete on a field against other people, but the true test is really against ourselves every step of the way. Can we handle it when someone takes a run at us? How do we respond when fouled? After we get knocked to the ground, what do we choose to do when we get up?

Soccer is life.

Did you hear that Sound(ers)?

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Congratulations to the 2010 Open Cup Champion Seattle Sounders who repeated as Open Cup champion with a 2-1 victory in front of about 32,000 fans at Qwest Field in Seattle.

Congratulations also for the refereeing team who did quite an excellent job to see this tournament to a fitting conclusion; Michael Kennedy, Tom Supple, Paul Scott, and Ricardo Salazar.

See one account here, courtesy of ESPN.

Liverpool Red Sox??

Liverpool Agrees to Sell Club to Red Sox

Liverpool Football Club said Wednesday it has agreed to sell the club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox, but the deal's fate is uncertain because the soccer team's owners remain opposed.
John Henry, a U.S. hedge-fund manager who owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team, has reached a tentative agreement to purchase Liverpool, the once-dominant British soccer team that has fallen on hard times. ...
See the whole article here, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Karma is a funny thing

Kicking Back comments:
I don't think we are going to see De Jong (of World Cup - Karate Kid fame) again anytime soon, certainly not on the Netherlands national side as he was summarily dropped today for a tackle that broke an opponents leg in 2 places.

I would opine that we are not going to see the referee for a while either as De Jong made the bone splitting tackle without even a caution.

Read the whole gruesome account here, courtesy of Yahoo sports.

FIFA Strikes Again

FIFA suspends Nigeria over government interference

FIFA suspended the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) yesterday because of government interference in the federation’s work.
The FIFA Emergency Committee listed several cases of government interference as justification for its decision to suspend the federation. ...

See the story here, courtesy of

Monday, October 4, 2010

Upgrade Kudos - With a Twist

Many folks do not recognize the complexity of the "machine" behind the modern game. While I will not opine about the complex inner workings of the player side of FIFA, its national associations (e.g. US Soccer), State and local associations, I want to shed some light on the refereeing side a bit.

Ubiquitous to our lexicon is the term "referee". We are very familiar with who they are and generally their role inside the soccer field. Beyond that, there are a host of other actors that include referee administrators, referee assessors, referee mentors, and yes, referee instructors. It is this last group I will expand briefly on here.

Similar to referees within US Soccer, instructors too carry a grade such as instructor, state instructor, and national instructor. There are more, but you take my point I'm sure. Also similar, are requirements for grade retention, and upgrade such as classes given, and training received.

Many of these folks are active, or inactive former referees and have experience, sometimes a tremendous amount, with the game. Even with that experience, there is a fairly ridged training regime that goes into being an instructor, even to do so at a local level, for new referees. To upgrade to a state instructor takes hours of practical, and course work to learn how to shape the minds of referees at higher and higher levels. This requires not only a thorough understanding of the game, but also empathy for the plight of such a referee, combined with a healthy does of detailing "Law 18".

Recently there are two individuals I would like to recognize for their dedicated service to the instructor core (also noting their involvement as referees, assessors, and mentors), and congratulate them on their recent accomplishments.

Please join me in congratulating Peter Johnson and Peter Robinson for their recent advance to State Instructor. I continue to look forward to their work in turning out the quality referees of the future, and working with each of them along the way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The usefulness of uselessness"

I am a reader of Nature Magazine. It is really a fascinating magazine that deals with a whole bunch of heady topics that I like to distract myself with.

The other day I was flipping through the August 25th issue, and noticed an article named, "Quantum mechanics: The usefulness of uselessness", authored by Andreas Winter. An abstract of the article is here:

"A game for three or more players called 'guess your neighbour's input' reveals common ground between classical and quantum physics — at the expense of more exotic, super-quantum, theories of nature." (See Nature 466, 1053-1054 (26 August 2010) | doi:10.1038/4661053a; Published online 25 August 2010)

In pursing the article I ran across the following picture to illustrate what is going on in this super-quantum context, mouth agape. Now, I have used sport analogies often to describe a litany of things. This is the first time I have seen it to describe such a relatively complex topic.

Yet another example of what I am coming to call the "JAFO Paradox": Soccer is life.

With permission from Nature Magazine

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Kicking Back Comments:
There are times after I have had to send off a player when I have the very conscious thought of, "... what were they thinking ... ." Well the following article gets into the head of Ben Olsen a little, and to his credit, in his comments show he accepts personal responsibility for some of his past transgressions that led to some of his send offs.

While I note that these "mea culpas" do not include the present incident, and I don't entirely buy the "newness" he claims, it to me is of little consequence as he clearly knows when he has gone off the reservation. His comments are illustrative.
The former tenacious midfielder continued: "I have done things in this league that I have deserved red cards. I have raised my hand and said, 'Yup, I know what a red card is, I know what a suspension is, and I should've gotten one.' I am being fined for comments I made [to the officials] after I was thrown out, and I absolutely deserve that fine for my reaction. I've got to watch my mouth. I'm new to this."
A good quick read here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Outgoing WPS Commissioner, In Her Own Words

Excellent interview here with Tonya Antonucci, outgoing commissioner of the WPS, about the league, its future, and some of the twists and turns along the way.