Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Soccer is bad for your health?

Regularly Hitting Soccer Ball With Head Linked to Memory Problems

Nov. 29, 2011 (Chicago) -- Using your head in soccer may not always be the best thing.

Regularly hitting a soccer ball with your head -- even just a few times a day -- has been linked to traumatic brain injuries, researchers report.

In a preliminary study, 32 amateur soccer players who "headed" the ball more than 1,000 to 1,500 times a year, the equivalent of a few times a day, had abnormalities in areas of the brain responsible for memory, attention, planning, organizing, and vision. ...

See the whole article here, from Web MD, and another here from USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: So riddle me this friends, how can a player reasonably protect themselves from harm from such an issue? Not playing is certainly an obvious answer. How about a helmet?

Can a player wear a helmet?

If some of the Massachusetts legislature had its way, they would. Just take a look here, and more recently here for a far more reasonable approach. 

Really though, can a player wear a helmet under the LOTG?

Well, we are under Law 4, and it is clear that a player, "must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player." The interpretations to Law 4 further on make it clear that, "Modern protective equipment such as headgear, ... made of soft, lightweight padded material are not considered dangerous and are therefore permitted."

Very clear indeed. So any type of hard helmet is absolutely out, where something like the F90 Headguard should be allowed without even a second look.

It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Don't believe me, or the statistics in the captioned articles? Check out this story from Grant Wahl, Concussions take toll in soccer too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More of the Same in Brazil

Ronaldo denies call to head Brazil World Cup committee

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Retired Brazil striker Ronaldo said Sunday he hasn't received an invitation to replace Ricardo Teixeira as the head of the country's 2014 World Cup organizing committee.

Teixeira, president of the Brazilian football federation, has recently been making changes to how the sport is governed and a Brazilian newspaper said he would leave the presidency of the organizing committee to make way for Ronaldo. ...

See the full article here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: This is a particularly interesting read (and I recommend doing so) as it continues to paint the picture of who the next FIFA president may be if Brazil 2014 goes well. It also speculates on the level of corruption that is going on within the countries themselves. Take a look at the list of issues and investigations here ... and you start to wonder where there is smoke ... there is a corrupt politician.

Continues to be a sad commentary as to what The Game is about at this level ... $$$

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Baaaaaaack ...

... or maybe it never left.

Goal line technology has apparently had a busy week being put through its paces. FIFA spent part of last week looking at Hawk-Eye, already used in tennis and cricket. Up this week is Goalminder. Both are UK based companies.

What is interesting about these systems is they are both camera based. It would seem from the intel I have seen, and the direction FIFA seems to be going in, that the "sensor" based technologies are history, as from my sources who have used them, they are too flakey.

In the case of Goalminder you have cameras in both the goalposts and the goal line itself. It ain't cheap though as an install is in excess of $50,000 per goal.

While the systems are being tested in secret, it would sure seem that we are going to have goal line technology at least in a trial in the near future ... I hate to say.

Check out these articles that go into a little more detail about what our FIFA friends have been up to.

Fifa eyes football fans’ goal software from the Financial Times, and

Goal line technology back at top of the football agenda from the Football Trade Directory.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Too Good Not To Share: William Shatner on Turkey Fryers

Damn it Jim, I'm a Doctor, not a rôtisseur.

2011 Turkey of the Year Award: Sepp Blatter

So as many of you know, today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I was originally going to write a fluff piece about how much I was thankful of so many things, which I am. But ...

Asia Pacific had its awards ceremony last night in Kuala Lumpur which is (was?) Mohamed bin Hammam's former stronghold before receiving a life ban from FIFA due his recent bribery charges. Mr. Blatter apparently could not contain himself taking several verbal shots at the disgraced leader in front of his former "subjects". You can get a taste of the comments from the AFP piece, FIFA president Blatter steals show in Asia. Here's one from the mouth of Blatter that made me laugh out loud:

"It's discipline, respect, fair play and if you put it into an organisation like the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) then you come to unity, solidarity, democracy, and finally it's a question of trust and confidence."

Now maybe its just me, but here is a guy who has been shown to have less than impeccable morals as the head of FIFA. Corruption, bribery, and recently, racism, are adjectives that are swirling around not only FIFA, but Blatter himself. You can bet your last Swiss Franc I have been researching Blatter's latest stellar example of why he should not be leading FIFA with his recent gaffe on Al Jazeera. How can this realistically continue?

Hopefully it will not for long if @FakeSepp has anything to do with it. Even he has turned from hysterical satirist to straight evangelist in some of his recent tweets.

So while I think Sepp is my 2011 Turkey of the Year, I can only hope by this time next year, we will be free of him. More importantly The Game will.

That I will be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MLS Referee and AR of the year ...

NEW YORK – MLS announced on Thursday that Mark Geiger has received the Referee of the Year award for the 2011 season. Corey Rockwell was named Assistant Referee of the Year.

Geiger has appeared in more than 90 regular-season matches since 2004, his first season as a referee in MLS. He has also taken part in five playoff games, most recently refereeing Houston’s 2-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Championship.

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Les Jeux Sont Faits for the (not so) "Super Committee"

Paul Levy wrote about the recent "super committee" mess in his recent post of Choice: Eat or throw tomatoes. He writes most eloquently what I state here gutturally, these folks are so bogged down in politics and self interest, they are useless in finding a solution. So much so their opportunity to actually do something has passed.

I have no use personally for such lack of action, or political grandstanding from them or POTUS in blaming one side, not leading and blaming both.

I was thinking though, what if referees who were trained to act as needed were put in such a situation. Can you imagine Congress filled with referees? Something certainly would get done ... and probably a number of cautions given along the way and likely an ejection or two. Who would go first I wonder??

Made me think of this commercial from NexTel, which is right on point:

Monday, November 21, 2011

They are more than fellow referees ...

Photo courtesy of
As some may have heard, 41 year old FIFA referee Babak Rafati, attempted to commit suicide on Saturday prior to a Bundesliga match between Cologne and FSV Mainz. This match was canceled 40 minutes prior to kickoff.

Now, one of the recently reported facts on the matter is that his refereeing crew is being credited with saving his life.

See, Referee's life saved after suicide attempt, from the Independent with the gory details, including:
"Rafati was found in the bath of his Cologne hotel room by the officials after he had slit his wrists in an attempt to commit suicide two hours before the game."
Now, far be it for me to comment on any particular aspect of this story as frankly it would be irresponsible. There are a couple of general comments I will make however.

First, referees are humans, and suffer the same as every other human on the planet. While I have not always thought this way, thinking at times in my life they suffer less, and sometimes more, I certainly know now that we are all hopelessly human. I wish the man well on his long road to recovery both physically and emotionally.

Second, referees share so much with each other, especially at the highest levels. It is somewhat unavoidable as with so few matches, and so few high level referees, you see the same faces time, and time again. So often these men and women are far more than colleagues, they become friends, and sometimes close ones for life for what they go through together on the field, and off.  It is my sense that Holger Henschel, Frank Willenborg and Patrick Ittrich were close to Mr. Rafati before this tragic incident, but certainly will be now as they too are surely suffering as well.

Next time you are out, consider the part of life you are sharing with your "regular crew", and the team will be better for it, as it puts far more emphasis of why you are there, which is far more than simply refereeing a match.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I am 'outta here ...

... for about a week on business.

I will be in Asia, so in the spirit I have been catching up on the Hong Kong Referee blog. It continues to be a very precise rendering of refereeing topics, and does not disappoint.

Take a peek ... it's worth it.

Will be back next week with more ... but who knows JAFO and Nigel may just jump in as well.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You Veterans

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." 

- John F. Kennedy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Just like I planned

Photo courtesy of Velo News
So if you read yesterday (... they just fade away ...), you saw me offering a complaint without much else.

Well, as luck would have it, Velo News came through again with: McEwen outlines schedule in farewell season, to transition to ‘scout’ role.

Robbie McEwen is a pro rider since 1996 and rides currently for Team Radio Shack. Playing the role of a sprinter, he has dozens of palmares (wins) to his name, and significant racing experience to say the least.

He will be racing until May, then acting as a scout for Greenedge Cycling, riding the last several K of the TDF routes to scout things for the riders.

How cool is that?

Now imagine if US Soccer did something similar. Created a scouting program to work with the youth leagues to find that next FIFA referee. Not just hope they bubble up in some tournament, but a conscious effort with a group of scouts in each state to find these kids that will rise to the top.

FIFA wants 'em young to train. US Soccer needs 'em young to get experience and credibility. A national scouting program ... a bit more than we have now ... and with a little organization may find that next Angelo Bratsis, or Brian Hall.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

... they just fade away ...

For those who are not familiar with the quote, it is from General MacArthur in his farewell speech to the US Senate when he retired from his better than half century of military service to the United States. His full quote is "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

I picked up the quote when reading Velo News about the crop of 2011 pro cycling retirees, among them is Lance Armstrong. End of an era for sure in pro cycling. He like MacAuthur will never die, but just fade.

It also had me reflecting on the season and that we are coming time to have mandatory retirement from the FIFA list for those who have reached 45 years of age. Most notable for me last year was Tom Supple who I wrote about in Celebrating an outstanding career, and a friend.

The USA list of FIFA referees and ARs can be found here, and based on age, it looks like AR Chris Strickland is coming off the list this year.

Now after a lifetime of climbing the refereeing ranks that a retiring referee would be showered with laurels and made to feel appreciated for their service to US Soccer. After all they have reached the apex of refereeing in the world, and have done so for US Soccer.

It is my experience and observation however ... not so much.

Some former FIFA referees certainly contribute greatly to the professional leagues, either actively by continuing to work them, or indirectly as with their experience they can work as National Assessors and Instructors. To have former National and FIFA referees undertake these roles, nearly exclusively, is a very positive policy that US Soccer has undertaken. 

That said of a good first step, it is my opinion US Soccer needs to better engage its "retired" refereeing population in each state to fully utilize their abilities that in some cases have been left adrift with much to offer at the National level.

In this way, if done properly, former FIFA referees don't die, nor fade, but stay in the respected position they have earned over a lifetime of service and continue to contribute along the way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Upgrade Kudos

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

Well done!

Monday, November 7, 2011


EXCLUSIVE: Poppy ban on England kit enforced 'in case we upset Germans'

FIFA have insisted that England cannot wear poppies against Spain at Wembley — in case they one day meet Germany around the time of Remembrance Sunday.

Football’s governing body do not want to create a ‘provocative’ political precedent which would potentially cloud a future match because of historical difference.

The FA had their request for poppies to be sewn into England’s kit for Saturday’s match against the world champions declined by FIFA, to the dismay of war veterans and England’s governing body. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Mail Online.

Kicking Back Comments: Overly PC, or reasonable look at the big picture? Not sure on this one, but I am never a fan of failing to remember a veteran. War happens and I figure we could remember the fallen of each side in a respectful way to assure it does not happen again.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Falling Back

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
As daylight is waning, and the days are getting colder, today is the day we observe Daylight Savings Time in parts of the world. For a precise country by country breakdown, look here at Wikipedia, for its origin, history, where its observed, and just general factoids about the observance.

What it also means, sadly, is the outdoor season is coming to a close and its time to move indoor for some R&R, indoor soccer, futsal, and yes (again sadly) training for next year.

Don't worry, spring is only 135 days away.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Worawi denies wrongdoing over funds

Worawi Makudi, president of the Football Association of Thailand, yesterday denied wrongdoing after allegations that US$860,000 of development funds were spent building football projects on land he owns.

It was reported this week that Fifa had stepped up its investigation into its executive committee member Worawi, demanding more legal documents to answer the allegations.

Fifa said it will launch a formal case if Worawi fails to show by Dec 1 that he donated the land in question to the FAT. ...

See the whole story here from The Bankok Post.

Kicking Back Comments: NOW we're cooking with gas! Let's root this stuff out FIFA and get rid of the wrong doers! About time!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Upgrade Kudos

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

Well done!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Required reading ...

... for any who coach youth soccer, or who want to.

See l'equip petit from Paul Levy's blog Not Running a Hospital.

You can follow Paul (and I do) at the following: