Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Imagine refereeing there ...

Guantanamo detainees get new $750G soccer field

At a time of record deficits, a new soccer field for detainees at Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay is just getting the finishing touches -- at a cost of $750,000 to taxpayers.

The project was the highlight of a tour Tuesday of the detention camp for reporters at the facility covering the arraignment in a military court of Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident and the the only legal U.S. resident on trial at Guantanamo. ...

See the whole story from Fox here.

Kicking Back Comments: Political commentary (genuinely) aside for a moment ... This may one of the purest forms of soccer to be played ... for fun, for sport, for hope. Prison soccer is not to be trifled with, not because of the players, but because, I believe it means, and can provide, much more to inmates than to many who show up on a given Sunday because they feel they have to.

Another good story is Soccer Behind Bars from ABC describing a prison soccer league in South Africa and the very complex relationships the players and league have behind prison walls. The article also references some guy from Africa named Mandela (Nelson Mandela anyone?), and how a prison soccer league transformed the anti-apartheid movement.

One thing that has always struck me when I think about this is it is funny to be that these folks don't need referees at all. They figure it out all on their own. Why can't others that are far more "privileged" in what they have, figure that one out?

I think there is a lesson or two in there somewhere for some of us on the "outside."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

These fan(atics) have a special place in his ... heart

Moms who saved soccer referee's life to get awards

The mothers of two Vandebilt Catholic soccer players will receive an award for saving the life of a referee who collapsed in the midst of a January game.

Tommy Manor, a longtime Houma referee and coach, collapsed during the Vandebilt girls Jan. 3 game against Lutcher. He survived, but officials said that was because of the diligent efforts by four moms who had been watching the game from the stands.

Manor spent several days at Terrebonne General Medical Center, and he said he has since made a full recovery. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: A truly great story and one that continues to show there is still good in the world.

I have to say though, 5 weeks and he is back! Holy smokes! I'm not so sure I would be so brave, after so short a time. Good for him though ... no doubt doing what he loves.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Casper the friendly goal scorer

Ghost Goals That Haunt Soccer
When Is a Goal Actually a Goal?; The Six Arguments Against Technological Progress

It's one of the great mysteries of soccer: In a sport where the objective is to score goals, why do we put up with needless uncertainty about whether the ball has actually crossed the line? Why doesn't soccer use the technological tools at its disposal to objectively determine whether the very raison d'être of the game has actually taken place?

Soccer has a long history of so-called ghost goals. These are situations in which the ball crosses the line and comes back out, but the officials fail to award the score. Usually this happens when it's cleared by the goalkeeper or a defender on or behind the line. Sometimes, a long-range shot will hit the underside of the bar, bounce straight down behind the line and then, heavy with backspin, carom out like a billiard shot. Occasionally the ball does not cross the line but the officials fail to notice and give the goal. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the WSJ.

Kicking Back Comments: An interesting opinion piece that in spots I share the opinion, spots is thoughtful, and spots is just technically incorrect. It is worth a read none the less. At the end of the day though, while I am a technologist, I am not an advocate for technology in this case. One point that I strongly agree with is that such incidents create drama (the author call it debate ... but that is too narrow for me). Drama is why many tolerate a 1 - 0 match, or a 0 - 0 draw. It is in the knowledge that something unexpected can occur, without the intervention of someone sitting in a glass booth somewhere. Let it be determined by those who "feel" the match, referee inclusive.

Let The Game be. Don't try and fix something that is just fine all by itself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Would the real FIFA please stand up?

So I was cruising the information superhighway the other day and ran across this ... and the irony was just too rich not to share.

FIFA (the acronym) as we know stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, and I do have some fun at their expense expressing personal opinions, mostly out of the rampant corruption that would seem to be, and in some cases proven to be, taking place. There is no place in The Game, nor its governors for such behavior.

I think I may have the answer as the FIFA we know and love may just be a shell company for the REAL FIFA, the Fertilizer Industry Federation of Australia. I looked at their mission statement and it would seem to be staggeringly similar ... to sell bull $*^t to the world.

I am obviously joking, but with the recent CAS rulings, and Jack Warner threatening to sue a Trinidad newspaper (in part) for behavior he resigned from FIFA over,  I continue to shake my head every time someone from FIFA speaks as I just can't believe a word out of their mouth.

That part is sad as FIFA has hopelessly tainted itself for some time. The dark humor is the other FIFA who sells manure for a living and the irony that both FIFA's share that vision currently it would seem.

What's that about art imitating life?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another one bites the dust ...

Adamu loses appeal in FIFA World Cup bribery case

Disgraced former FIFA official Amos Adamu lost his appeal against a three-year ban from football for seeking bribes during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a judgment by FIFA's ethics committee to expel Adamu from football until October 2013.

A panel of three arbitrators said the ban "was even relatively mild given the seriousness of the offense.'' ...

See the whole story here, from

Kicking Back Comments: I agree with the panel ... three years? That's it? Well, he'll be back in time for Brasil in 2014. Take a look at the line of FIFA executives going to trial or coming to decision soon at the bottom of the article. Who knew CAS did more than ban professional cyclists found guilty of doping?

Is there a Contador fan in the house? Anyone?


Yeah, didn't think so.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A look behind the curtain

My nine to five: Peter Walton

The football referee on a restless night's sleep in a hotel, breaking the ice with managers and pre-match butterflies

I only find out what games I'll be refereeing a few days in advance. If it's a Saturday match, I'll travel from Northamptonshire, where I live, on Friday afternoon, then book into a hotel. I'll be in bed by 10pm. I don't sleep well in hotels, so I'll just try to relax and fluff up another hard pillow.

On match day I'll try to lie in and not be up till 9am. I'll flick through the papers to see if there's any news about the game then have a very light breakfast, things you can easily digest like baked beans, tomatoes or boiled egg. ...

See the whole story here, from the Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: Everyone is different here. For me, check out the pilot episode of TMT located here, discussing my match preparation. A tea before a match though ... very civilized ... I like that.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is a joke ... right?

FIFA panel calls for handshakes

A FIFA expert panel chaired by German legend Franz Beckenbauer has recommended that players should shake hands on the field more in order to improve the game's image.

The issue of the pre-match handshakes has come under the spotlight in recent months with Liverpool's Luis Suarez refusing to shake Manchester United defender Patrice Evra's hand after having being found guilty of racially abusing him. ...

See the whole story here, from ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: Solution to a racism issue, or marketing strategy? Beckenbauer himself answers in the article stating "... it would be a better image ... ."

So again my question ... Why is FIFA proposing this?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Epic fail, or absolute genius?

Take a look at the following clip from YouTube of referee Peter Walton:

A couple of questions.

First, did Mr. Walton get what he wanted out of the exchange?
My answer is YES! Take a look at the demeanor of the player, and their responsiveness to what the referee was saying. It did not matter if there was a yellow, red, green, purple, or no card over the players head. THE MESSAGE GOT ACROSS.

Second, Did Mr. Mutch receive a yellow card?
My answer is NO! Ask me 40 or so years ago and my answer is yes, but in today's game, the answer is no.

Take a look at Law 12 under "Cautionable Offenses", it states in part "A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if ..." (emphasis is mine). See also p.54 etc in the Advice to Referees. Please note this is true "DURING A MATCH." This changes a bit before and after the match. A good delineation of what a card means and when can be read from the LOTG, Advice, and here (memo on misconduct and display of cards that is on point).

Some time ago a player would know by getting written up in the referees "book." This gave way to the term "booked" that is still used today regarding misconduct. This was the general practice until around 1968 when Sir Ken Aston created them (as the story goes) slowing at a stop light that turned yellow, then red. From there the funny colored cards were used for the first time in the 1970 World Cup. Before that time, no such device was used, only "the book."

In today's game a more obvious display to put a player on notice is needed. I would opine this is true, not for the player themselves, but rather for those watching as if the referee is doing their job right, the player should know from the referee where they stand without the display of a colored piece of plastic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Goal Play!

Life has many lessons for those who look for them and are willing to accept what it has to offer. Soccer, being a subset of life also has many, many unique lessons to teach.

In his new book, Goal Play!, Paul Levy combines these two to, as he describes it on his blog Not Running A Hospital:

"This book draws on a series of anecdotes from "the pitch" and ties them into my theories of effective leadership. As in all such matters, I have benefited from the advice and experience of many others, and I am hoping that people who are in leadership positions -- or want to be -- can likewise benefit from my perspectives."

You can see the full introduction on his website here, and a complete description with online purchasing can be found here from CreateSpace, or here from Amazon, where I got mine.

Based on the reviews to date (every single one is a 5 star rating), it looks like an amazing book, and one that I will share a review with all here after I tear through it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Programming Note - "Winter" Break

Readers of Kicking Back:

Over the next week or so I am going to be "unplugged" and unable to write regularly. However, I will be likely tweeting my fingers off at @Kicking_Back so please check there regularly.

I expect to be back at it in full just in time for the school vacation week of 20-FEB. Until then, please enjoy the archives.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Life As a Referee: Part 2

For any who have not seen these videos, it is a revealing look into the life of one of US Soccer's "up and comers" Mark Geiger.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Life As a Referee: Part 1

For any who have not seen these videos, it is a revealing look into the life of one of US Soccer's "up and comers" Mark Geiger.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What is the referee looking at?

What is the referee looking at?
Robert Evans

How many times out on the park have you heard that cry: "What is he looking at?" That and all its variants: "You're missing a great game!" or "How could she miss that?" and "It was right in front of him, and he did nothing!" As an instructor I have dealt with this problem many, many times, and tried various themes as a way of impressing referees that knowing where and when to look is as important as knowing the laws. And after watching the Premiership these last few months, I have to say that the problem doesn't exist only in the amateur game.

So before I go on to the subject, let me ask a few questions of you . . . and then we'll have a practical demonstration from the eight-year-old daughter of two skillful soccer-playing parents, with whom I have had the great pleasure of playing. ...

See the complete (and phenomenal) article here, at For the Integrity of Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: It rarely gets better than this. A must read!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl!!

So last year I compared World Cup to the Super Bowl, and got into some general Super Bowl lore in "It's Superbowl Day."

This year I am a bit more vested as the New England Patriots are in playing the New York Giants in a Super Bowl rematch that I am looking forward to.

Football aside however, I enjoy the TV commercials the most and am hoping the 2012 versions are better than the 2011 ones ... save one exception noted below which was by far my favorite.

It makes me wonder though ... this young man seems to have all the makings of a future referee. After all, who parades around in a Darth Vader costume?

My least favorite leading up to the Big Game is here:

As these guys tried, and failed, to be funny (save Manning's line of 'a guy has to work') by again poking fun at referee Phil Luckett from the November 26, 1998 coin tossing incident. Too bad as detailed in this analysis by Referee Magazine that Bettis lied about the incident and threw Luckett under the ... errr ... Bus.

For the record as detailed in the story, Luckett got it right, and Bus was just plain wrong.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yes Stanley, we are ...

Are We All Nuts?
A Personal Story by Stanley Lover

Look at the facts. We are an endangered species. More than a million of us worldwide, dying out like dinosaurs of a bygone age. Our demise is largely due to our own folly for we suffer the cruelty of human nature from the very people we help add sunshine into workaday lives. We put up with insults, abuse, threats and assaults.

Trained experts in our field, we are the targets for the masses who protest, contest, accuse us of corruption and worse.

No, we are not politicians. We are sports officials.

According to verbal taunts from the sidelines we are the lowest form of human existence, illegitimate offspring of unmarried parents, fair game for insults and humiliation. So, why do we do it? Are we all nuts? ...

See the whole story here, from referee magazine.

Kicking Back Comments: A fun read. This was especially true in light of the article Kicking Back ran the other day in "How to get into college 101", where we had a view from a young referee in their college essay.

Very interesting to juxtapose the two essays. There were more than a few common threads, and a few things that did not align at all. If I had to pick a "side" though, it would be Stanley's.

Then again, I'm an old guy now and 20 years ago, I no doubt would have had a different view. Funny how my perspective of The Game has changed with me as I have gotten older. Sure a shame FIFA has cut, and likely will continue to cut, the age limit on the highest level referees. There is something to be said for life experience.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Word on the street ...

... is FIFA Street 2012 (FIFA Street 4) will be available March 13th, 2012. Check out the trailer below. Looks pretty cool.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Death toll rises to 79 from soccer riots in Egypt

Cairo (CNN) -- The death toll from a riot at a soccer game in Egypt rose to 79, officials said Thursday, as many continued to mourn and look for the reasons behind the deadly melee.

A somber crowd of hundreds were in Cairo's Tahrir Square Thursday, some saying chants decrying Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Many were wearing the popular apparel of the Al-Ahly club. ...

See the whole story and video below here, from CNN.

Kicking Back Comments: At 1:55 of this video the reporter is describing the scene of fan(atics) entering the field and celebrating with the team after a goal. This reporter continues by saying regarding this, "... the referee didn't do anything ... ."

What exactly is a referee to do?

For me, find your team, find security, get safe, abandon, and write a match report. For the matches I have abandoned this is what I generally have done. What we see on the video is nothing like I have ever experienced before personally however. Primary concern I think in a case like this is get you and your team safely away however you can. Remove your jersey and get out of there to a safe location. I take pride in my uniform, but not more than my life. A referee can write a report that details a situation like this without staying to watch "who wins" at the end. Report what you see on the way to the door, don't feel compelled to stay to observe as referees are a natural target when chaos erupts. Even if you think the violence will not come to you (as with here it would seem political unrest played a part, not a match decision), get out.

Take a look here, 79 people were sadly killed, and scores of others no doubt hurt. Don't be a statistic.

Get your team, get safe, and get out. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Do I Have To Go Mom?

Photo Credit: USA Today
So unless you have been living under a rock for the last week or so, the controversy about Tim Thomas, Net minder for the NHL Boston Bruins, and his decision  and statements to not accept an invitation from POTUS has just not gone away.

If anyone is interested in other notable athletes that have not accepted a POTUS invitation to the WHite House, just take a look here. Also, former Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstien refused an invitation from POTUS as well, back in 2008.

To stay politically neutral, lets look at Alex Ovechkin, from the NHL Washington Capitals who refused to participate in the NHL All Star Game this year.

Without regard to politics, if put in a similar situation should a referee refuse such an invitation for an "official function?"

My answer is no, if representing yourself as a referee.

Now there is a thin line here as I am also a strong believer of the 1st Amendment to the COTUS, and the acts described above plainly fit into that category. However, if as a referee you are asked to an official function, such as an awards ceremony, you should go if at all possible.

This has nothing to do with the individual in their individual capacity, it has everything to do with you representing yourself as part of a larger team, that of US Soccer referees.

There is always time later to express your individual views, (look at Kicking Back as an example of this as I would have NEVER said most of the things when I was an active referee) but there is also a time to act as a professional and do what is best for the team, not just the individual.

I will say finally that, even if an individual chooses not to accept an invitation to an event, it should not be held against them as to refute ones deeply held personal beliefs, is not conducive to team coherence, which is critically important, especially when you are looking for that offside flag.