Thursday, December 11, 2014

See Rule #95: Never Lift Your Bike Over Your Head

My reference today is to the fantastic site Velominati - Keepers of the Cog. This site, among other things, has a set of "rules" that each cyclist must follow.

In a recent recertification for Massachusetts soccer referees, I made the analogy between this rule for cyclists and for referees.

In my analogy referees should never "lift their bike over their head" as a form of public celebration ... the results can be disastrous.

It is my opinion referees should not openly celebrate their decisions as (a) it is a form of hubris no one wants to see as fans are there for the players, not the referee, and (b) these celebrations can be misinterpreted, badly.

Right on cue we have an incident last Sunday between the Bills and Broncos, where line judge John Hussey and umpire Carl Paganelli "fist bumped" each other after a Denver touchdown (video here).

Well as you can imagine this came closer to breaking the internet than other recent events as fans went wild with conspiracy theories about how the officials were openly celebrating the Denver score. (My personal favorite comment was "ILLUMINATI CONFIRMED")

Mike Pereira has a good analysis explaining what had happened.

Even the NFL’s vice president of communications, Michael Signora, had to make a statement telling the Associated Press that the fist bump was “an acknowledgment of good mechanics between the two officials involved in making the call.”

So where does this leave us?

If you make a good decision, don't do a happy dance right there. After the match celebrate with your other referees and family taking pride that you made a good, tough call. To do otherwise invites speculation that no one needs.

It was a damn fine bit of officiating, no doubt about it. It was also (sadly) wasted on the vast majority who saw the reaction, not the action.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Sanity from IFAB

IFAB puts video challenges on hold, but rolls on with subs changes

November 27 - FIFA president Sepp Blatter's idea of bringing in video replays and permitting coaches to be allowed tennis-style challenges against refereeing decisions appears unlikely to be implemented in the near future.

Blatter first made the suggestion during FIFA's annual congress in Sao Paulo in June, raising eyebrows among delegates since he had hitherto been opposed to any video aids other than goal-line technology. The idea was discussed earlier this week at the annual business meeting of the International FA Board, which consists of FIFA and the four British associations and which was aided, for the first time, by two newly established advisory panels of experts given a platform to directly voice their views on the laws of the game. ...

See the whole article here from Inside World Football.

Kicking Back Comments: I am happy for this moment of sanity as I personally think challenges as Sepp envisions them will be disastrous to football. I can almost see a coach throwing a "red flag" or similar silly signal into the field to stop the match.

Recall the disaster that is challenges in MLB? Even the NFL is changing the way they are used. Somehow this is a good idea for one of the most fluid games on the planet?

If they MUST meddle, please for the love of Bobby Orr, look sat the NHL. It may be one of the best implementations of the use to modern sports.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

At least they are not the Celtics ...

Revolution Returns to MLS Cup in a New Era of U.S. Soccer Fandom

The New England Revolution is still a clear No. 5 on the popularity power ranking of the region’s pro sports teams.

But the Revs will also become the only local pro team to play in a league championship game in 2014 (has it really been that long already, since Koji struck out Matt Carpenter?), when they take on U.S. soccer icon Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup final on Sunday at 3 p.m.

You know what that means: get the bandwagon ready. ...

See the whole article here, from

Kicking Back Comments: Bandwagons indeed. It's too bad too as the boys have played well this year, especially Nguyen and deserve more than a casual glance. It will be my prediction that this match will be on screens across New England this Sunday and not the Celtics.

After that however, I expect, New England sports to get back to "normal" and folks will tune in the Celtics ... as horrible as they are .... again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

US Soccer Grades and Path Forward

Kicking Back Comments:
With some of the recent changes to grades, this is a nice video that details both grades and advancement paths from US Soccer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Photo Credit: Reuters
For any who know Japanese, the translation for the title is "Sayōnara", or as an English translation, "goodbye."

This is exactly what Sony said to FIFA recently as the Japanese electronics company is dropping its $280M contract with FIFA it has had over the last 8 years. (source)

Let's face it, FIFA would not even need Sony given its reserve funds of ~$1.5B (source) and willingness of other companies to take their place.

I will say though that the optics look lousy. Of the (6) "Partners" FIFA has, as listed here, 33% of them want nothing to do with FIFA due to their corruption.

Graphic Credit: FIFA
To make matters worse, Coca-Cola may be next recently lashing out at FIFA. Yet in the face of all of these issues, Adidas has extended their sponsorship until 2030.

I have to believe they got  a good deal on this as at the rate they are going, they may be the only one left for a time.

Don't get me wrong, these guys likely get their money's worth and then some with this sponsorship. They wouldn't do it otherwise. All you have to do is check out FIFA's marketing organization to get a flavor of just how good they are.

The calculus that these companies are likely doing now is, can our brand take a loyalty hit due to FIFA's corruption.

Check out this video from WSJ that gives some insight on the topic.

Monday, December 1, 2014

No Doubt There

Mark Geiger named MLS Referee of the Year; Paul Scott voted Assistant Referee of the Year

Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that Mark Geiger has been voted 2014 Referee of the Year, his second such honor, while Paul Scott was voted 2014 Assistant Referee of the Year.

Geiger had a standout year, participating in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in addition to his domestic duties. Geiger served as head referee in the Group C opener between Colombia and Greece, as well as a group-stage game featuring Spain and Chile. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments:
Based on the scoring alone in the article there was no doubt.

What was hilarious were some of the comments to the article. They ranged from speculation that the only reason Mark got it was due to his World Cup performance, to it should have been given to the referee who was recently arrested for filing false claims, to openly wondering if is given in the most sarcastic manner.

Funny stuff and continues to give me hope that the vast majority of fans out there are exactly that, fanatics.

Congrats to Mark and Paul. In my learned opinion both men are well deserving.

Monday, November 17, 2014

MLS v. US Soccer - Round 1

Jurgen Klinsmann firm on young player advice as MLS frustration grows

On Oct. 15, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber took issue with U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann for comments that were deemed "detrimental" to MLS.

Garber objected to Klinsmann saying it would be "very difficult" for U.S. internationals Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to maintain their best form after the duo returned to play in MLS after extended spells in Europe.

Now it appears there was more to Garber's ire than met the eye. Seattle Sounders minority owner Adrian Hanauer, Philadelphia Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz, and several other sources have told ESPN FC that there is growing frustration within the league over the advice Klinsmann and U.S. soccer staff are giving to youth national team and MLS academy players. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments:

Now when this matter first came up publicly abound mid-October seemed kind bad ... but honestly after thinking abut it from the larger perspective it is great for US players and still bad for US referees.

On the player side, why shouldn't a player who is good enough, and having a coach who has the connections, look at a chance to play in Europe? I would think the relative test is what is in the best interest of the player, right? 

I hate to say it, but European soccer is better than MLS and if the commish is looking to strong-arm the US Soccer coaching staff in not recommending looking abroad, same on MLS. Now, if that same staff is ONLY recommending playing abroad, that is another matter entirely. There seems to be no outward indication of this however.

For referees, the news remains bleak. Although there is an exchange program that is going on now within MLS (and has been for some time - remember 1997 when Japanese referee Toru Kamikawa officiated numerous MLS matches and American referee Tim Weyland officiated J-League matches?) I will be a believer when one of these guys comes over here for MLS, and one of these guys does a match on the other side of the pond.

Until then, or when the league gains more international acclaim (I think it has some now) referees in this country will continue to be discriminated against without regard to being very, very skilled in the art as Mark Geiger showed the world earlier this year.

Friday, November 14, 2014

FIFA: Hell to host 2026 World Cup

Breaking news: Fifa say Hell will host 2026 World Cup

Fifa dismiss concerns over soaring temperatures and lack of football culture in Hell as bid leader Lucifer pays tribute to 'role model' Sepp Blatter

Hell will host the 2026 football World Cup after a Fifa report found “no reason” to overturn the controversial underworld destination’s successful bid.

A 666-page report seen by The Telegraph concluded that Fifa had acted ethically in awarding its showpiece tournament, and suggested Lucifer be compensated with “a really nice wristwatch, one with diamonds and everything” for having been put through an “unnecessary and upsetting” grilling. ...

See the whole "damned" story here, courtesy of The Telegraph.

Kicking Back Comments: ROTF LMAO!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Here comes Orlando ...

Purple huh (see them here) ...

Not a color I would have expected at all. In fact the only jersey I could find that was purple was the Man City 3rd jersey.

What was wrong with white with a nice yellow streak (a la the previous Miami Fusion). If you wanted to get crazy, how about "gator" green?

Maybe even some red and yellow ... uh hang on, that may have ticked off another Orlando resident ...

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank you Veterans ...

Photo Credit Glenn McCoy (

Monday, November 10, 2014

MLS Referee Arrested and Suspended

MLS referee suspended after workers' compensation fraud arrest

Jose Carlos Rivero will not work his scheduled MLS assignment this weekend after the Professional Referees Organization suspended him on Thursday for his recent arrest on two felony counts related to workers' compensation fraud.

Rivero, 33, was arrested by the New York State Police on Oct. 6 and released after being charged with offering a false instrument for filing and insurance fraud. He is alleged to have collected $14,000 in unlawful benefits through the New York State Workers' Compensation Board while gainfully employed, according to a release from the New York State Police earlier this month.

See the whole story here, from Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: I am a huge fan of innocent until proven otherwise ... but ... when you are a public figure who is responsible for holding up the integrity of a public office, school, or sport (among other things), when you are legitimately accused of fraud, you need to go.

If I were running PRO, I would do the same thing here in suspending him immediately. Then when the proceedings are over, sever the relationship regardless of the disposition.

Seems horribly unjust you say? Maybe. But for a person in a trust position like a referee who is arrested and (likely) tried for multiple felony counts, I am not sure how you can get that trust back to remain effective in the position. We are not talking about a he-said she-said, we are talking about a multiple count felony indictment. Type and magnitude of the crime are material here. 

Recall that the authority from a referee is not from the LOTG, or the league, or some other 3rd source ... it is from the integrity of the referee themselves. I contend the source of ones' ability to manage a match inside the field is self generated and if you are not honest with yourself, you will have difficulty being honest in managing others.

Anyone every heard of Tim Donaghy? While the crime Donaghy was convicted and served time for is slightly askew from the crime Rivero is charged with, the damage to the integrity of referees and The Game is the same.

I wish Mr. Rivero good health and all the best in his next (non-refereeing) career because he should never see a MLS match again as an official.

By the way ... this whole soccer personality getting arrested reminds me of someone else I've been following in US Soccer circles. I Hope you stick around for that one.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The case of Dr. Turf and the Cowardly Judge

It sounds like something out of Encyclopedia Brown, but it is really an ESPN and Forbes article I caught the other day.

We of course are dealing with the case where the CSA and FIFA want to use artificial surfaces for the Women's World Cup coming up in 2015 and the ladies will have none of it. Honestly, they shouldn't either and I support their position. Every other World Cup has been played on grass, why not this one? The surface changes The Game without question.

Where this starts to get funny is the manner in which the matter is being brought ... as a gender discrimination case. Now the lawyer in me gets it as it would be really hard to make a legal argument around "Hey you are doing this because it is makes more economic sense as CFL teams play here too and its expensive to upkeep grass versus a synthetic."

Yes folks, shockingly this is about the money.

Now the ladies have a viable complaint as I said, albeit a poor vehicle to bring it as, I'm sorry, playing on a synthetic is not a gender issue as it affects both equally. There were a couple of other things that stood out to me in this brouhaha as well:

From this ESPN W article, even the human rights folks are cowering from this fight. From the article:

"Given the jurisdictional complexity of this case, I am far from certain that it would be possible to ... render a decision on the merits within a few months," Jo-Anne Pickel, vice chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, wrote in her decision Friday, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.

For those uninitiated to double speak, this is saying the Human Rights Tribunal does not want anything to do with it as all, tacitly supporting my premise this has nothing to do with discrimination. If this was a real human rights issue, believe me, they would be a part of it.

Funniest part was FIFA charging to the rescue and providing an "expert" on the matter. His findings, and appropriate commentary, were found in Forbes in "FIFA Roll Out Their "Rug Doctor" In Women's World Cup Turf War". From that article:

To quote from Professor Harrison’s bio provided for the Geneva 2014 International Sports Convention he studied for a B.Sc. in Polymer Science at Liverpool University; was a Textile Technologist; completed a Ph. D at Loughborough; worked in Polymeric Materials; helped to develop Sport Surfaces (notice the capitalization) and worked in Industrial Flooring.

Rather than an expert who might be able to provide a balanced view FIFA instead opted for the equivalent of having Dracula speak on the need for more blood banks.

Don't wan't to provide a grass surface year round? NO PROBLEM! Provide a modular grass surface for just the World Cup. Anyone remember 1994 here in the US where FIFA refused to play on a synthetic surface? How did we solve that? We had octagons of grass that were pieced together for the matches and moved onto the synthetic surface. After matches, they were moved out in the sun to keep form. Problem solved!!

Let's face it, any World Cup should be played on grass. It's not about the gender, it's not about the money, it's about The Game and honoring it for how it was and should be played.

Can we all just agree on that? 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Up, Up, and Away

Emirates drops FIFA sponsorship over corruption allegations

Emirates is dropping its sponsorship of FIFA, becoming the first backer to abandon soccer’s governing body after allegations of corruption linked to voting on World Cup hosts and the group’s presidency.

Emirates, the world’s biggest international airline, said it won’t extend the contract that began in 2006 and concludes this year. ...

See the whole story here, from National Post.

Kicking Back Comments:
It warms my heart to see companies like Emirates (and as rumored Sony) taking action  by severing ties with FIFA as a premiere sponsor. What is sad however is companies like Samsung are ready and willing to fill the voids that are created.

While Visa and others has (to me) just made some noise about being ethical, blah, blah, blah, they apparently need Sepp doing a perp walk and splashed all over TMZ before they take action.

I hope I'm wrong, and as details about the corruption from the "Blazer files" come to light, these companies rethink their position.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giving Rats a Bad Name Since 1996

Soccer Rat! The inside story of how Chuck Blazer, ex-U.S. soccer executive and FIFA bigwig, became a confidential informant for the FBI

New York City's Blazer, a former member of the FIFA Executive Committee and a top boss for CONCACAF, gathered information on some of international soccer's most powerful figures.

The most crucial Olympic ring of the 2012 London Games was a simple keychain, wired for sound and presented to top international soccer executive Chuck Blazer — a cooperating witness for federal law enforcement agents.

The corrupt and corpulent Blazer, once the sport’s No. 1 powerbroker in the United States, is alleged to have collected untold millions during his 20-year reign — running up a staggering $29 million in credit card charges to help fuel his extravagant lifestyle, which included a pricey Trump Tower apartment for his cats. ...

See the whole article from the NY Daily News here.

Kicking Back Comments:
I have to say honestly that while Mr. Blazer may get absolved of his legal crimes for this assistance I have no love for a man, any man, who steals so much, from so many, while parading around saying its all of the good of The Game.

His ends of trying to catch the equally corrupt thieves at FIFA do not justify the means of his own stealing. Particularly in the face of such arrogance as this.

Now part of me feels for the man as well as he has recently been diagnosed and is undergoing treatment for colon cancer. In fact, some reporting went too far in tracking Mr. Blazer down to a medical facility were he was being treated for the disease.

That said, it's not as if Chuck is the benevolent, albeit bumbling hero Jack Ryan (played by Chris Pine) in Shadow Recruit, who tries to infiltrate the bad guys by going under cover. He very simply got caught, and in order to survive, had no other choice it would seem than to help the investigation.

He reminds me more of a Walter White of Breaking Bad fame where his current job just was not able to support his family and as such turned to a life of crime to create the life style he wanted. 

I hope he helps the FBI to get all the corrupt elements of FIFA ... then Mr. Blazer himself has to pay back each and every cent he stole in the name of The Game.

Fantasy I agree, but a worthy one.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another Way to Give Back: @OpGratitude

For those who know the history of Kicking Back, it was in part initially conceived to be a place for a place to give back to the community that essentially raised me when I was not home.

Like many of you out there I'm sure, we find ourselves out and about in the name of The Game on a very regular basis. During that time we are always interacting with others in ways that can certainly make us connect and grow. JAFO put it just right in the article "Making Connections" where Soccer Is Life and giving back is paramount.

The day after Halloween I was forwarded a mail from a neighbor who detailed a very clever way to connect and give back from a group called Operation Gratitude. From their website:

Operation Gratitude annually sends 150,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation, to New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas. Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to members of our Military. 

One of their neatest programs however is their Halloween Candy Drive where you can donate candy that is left over and give back to a variety of communities that I am certain could use it.

What would seem like a simple way to give back, will put smiles on a lot of faces ... and keep those evil little candy bars away from me.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The more things stay the same ... they change


As all of you who are regular readers have noticed and likely those few who check in occasionally I have been "away from my post" (that works on two levels) for the last several months.

Call it life, call it lazy, call it whatever you would like, I have not been here and I apologize for that. It has been a raucous summer on a variety of fronts and throughout I have missed writing on the variety of topics I do, all through the eyes of a referee.

With that lets get started again ... but first a note of caution ... for any who have not heard, I have the honor of now being the Massachusetts State Director of Assessment so my posting may take a slightly less sharp tone at time on some things ... or not based on the particular topic.

One addition I have made however is the "Assessors Tableau." Where I will throw out topics, articles, notes, quotes, or whatever to get my fellow assessors (from around the world) thinking, noting of course that the real "front line" assessors are the referees themselves.

With that we are off again ... however I anticipate at a slower pace as I am still on the edges of crazy and don't see that slowing down anytime soon.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

FIFA Has It Backwards ...

Referee who missed Luis Suárez bite gets Brazil v Germany semi-final

The referee who failed to see Luis Suárez bite an opponent has been picked to officiate Brazil’s World Cup semi-final against Germany.

Fifa says on its website that Marco Rodríguez of Mexico will referee the match in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Rodríguez has handled two World Cup matches – Uruguay’s 1-0 win against Italy on 24 June and Belgium’s 2-1 defeat of Algeria. It is his third World Cup finals and the first time he has refereed a game in the knock-out stages. ...

See the whole story here, from The Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: I'll say honestly, I think had a better tournament to date than Marco. While both are supremely qualified, I think the edge goes to Mark on this one.

Being a 4th official is no small matter to say the least, and being chosen is an honor ... one which he will do us proud with.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Danish teen wins FIFA Interactive World Cup by outplaying almost two million entrants in FIFA 14 PlayStation battle

While his nation did not make it to the real World Cup, 18-year-old August Rosenmeier did his bit for Danish pride by beating England’s David Bytheway 3-1 on Thursday to win the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC). Rosenmeier, who said he 'trains' four to six hours a day, won $20,000.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A Danish teenager has claimed the virtual World Cup by beating his English rival in the final of the online Playstation gaming competition, overcoming a field of almost two million entrants.

While his nation did not make it to the real World Cup, 18-year-old August Rosenmeier did his bit for Danish pride by beating England’s David Bytheway 3-1 on Thursday to win the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC). ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NY Daily News.

Kicking Back Comments: Might have well been the real World Cup ... Football starts, prize money, glory ... I have to believe this young man feels the same way.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Well I'll Be A Monkeys' Uncle

Police Say Ticket Scam Involved a FIFA Official

Brazilian police have arrested 11 people on charges of illegally reselling tickets to World Cup matches, and police allege that the source of the tickets is a senior official at FIFA, soccer's international governing body.

Rio de Janeiro police officials didn't name the FIFA official and said they are still working to determine his identity. FIFA said it is cooperating with the investigation.

Police said the accused obtained tickets meant for sponsors, nongovernmental organizations and national teams. The tickets were then illegally resold for several times their face value. Police estimate that the accused netted about $100 million from selling the tickets. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of WSJ.

Kicking Back Comments: So while innocent until proven otherwise, we now see another Blatter, Philippe Blatter, principle at Match AG and nephew to Sepp Blatter, possibly implicated in this as well.

What an odd coincidence eh?

Friday, July 4, 2014

FIFA meets Barry Manilow

For those who may not understand the reference (I am showing my age) please go here for the video.

It is in reference to some recent news out of Brazil where FIFA has been implicated in a ticket scalping operation apparently run out of the FIFA headquarters and hotel ... wait for it ... the Copacabana.

You can't make this stuff up folks.

The Guardian provided this gem at, World Cup 2014: Fifa official linked to $100m ticket scandal – police.

Aside from the silly song reference, and my knee jerk reaction of "who didn't think there was scalping going on?", was the ultra covert, black ops code name the Brazilian PD had for their sting ...

Operation Jules Rimet.

Wow ... who would have ever guessed.

It would need to be something way more Tom Clancy, like "Operation Blue Balls" in reference to the FIFA logo, or maybe "Operation Swiss Cheese" referring to FIFA's origin.

Then again maybe I am overthinking a bunch of FIFA suits using a middle man to sell tickets at 8x their face value and finding another way to screw the people of Brazil.

FIFA of course when faced with this news came up with a stunning rebuttal ...

"Maybe it's not from FIFA ..."

Again, you can't make this stuff up folks.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

There is still a US team in the World Cup (Hat tip @mtn335)

After a full couple of days of what I would call US successes (Mark Geiger and team, and the USMNT) I still believe that our US refereeing team is still very much in the tournament.

While there has been some criticism (First time criticizing a referee eh Keshi? That's believable.) of Mark and teams' performance during the FRA v. NGA match, largely surrounding the caution Mark issued ... as opposed to a send off as many would have liked ... I think the call was perfect.

"But Pete!", folks are asking me, "how can that be given the video we saw." ... and the still immediately below?

Image courtesy of ESPN

My answer is three fold.
  1. Matuidi was not "headhunting" or with any malice, or more appropriately, overly carless, reckless, or in a disproportionately forceful way went after Onazi that would merit a send off for Serious Foul Play. It was a foul, clearly. It was a caution, certainly. No more. Matuidi was genuinely remorseful after the tackle ... and not a "I just got caught" remorse. It was a real, "crap that was not what I intended" remorse. (Hold those "that does not matter" thoughts)
  2. Mark was Johnny on the Spot and was clear about the caution. It was not a "lets wait and see." He booked him instantly ... and all accepted the decision inside the field.
  3. A send off I believe would have likely ruined a fabulous match. It would have taken a match almost perfectly in balance (see stats below) and would have required 35'+ of 10 v. 11 play, completely disrupting the nice flow this match had to it.

Image courtesy of Google

This one comes down to the very real issue faced by referees at the World Cup (in particular). Balance is king. FIFA wants to see every team afforded every opportunity to decide matches on their own without undue interference from the referee.

Think about some of the "soft" penalties we saw earlier in the tournament and late penalty calls that resulted in dramatic finishes (I'm not blaming referees for bad behavior on a players part) ... it threw these matches out of "balance" and we did not see these referees or ARs again.

Let's go back to ... if they did it, the player should pay for it ...

Well, I hate to say this, but not at this level, or even at a high level professional match. Lets face it folks, stars are protected and they should be ... also frankly ... at this level it is more about getting a fair shake than what the laws say.

It's the biggest of the big boy games and if you look at the video or watched the match, the players accepted the decision and got on with it. If they did not, there would have been much more for Mark to deal with.

So based on this (some may ask) if the score was already 2-0, would this have been a send off?

My answer is that I'd be willing to bet it would have.

On the surface this may seem dramatically unjust, and even bias to a degree that players who commit wrong acts may get to stay for virtue of the situation.

It is however exactly what I am saying. Not only do different matches (as a whole) but also different points in a match require different management.

For me, at that time, in that match, with those teams in that tournament, a caution was Mark's only real option to keep that match where it was. With that caution, he maintained balance ... which is ultimately what referees at that level are judged for.

Short of a capricious decision by FIFA, I believe we will see Mark and team one more time this World Cup. I don't think it will be the final (I think this goes to Irmatov) and honestly the quarter finals based on the team stack up may be unlikely. (FRA-GER, no as GER was in USA group and they just did FRA; BRA-COL, most likely but a longshot with the host nation, likely a UEFA referee; ARG-BEL, no as BEL eliminated the US; NED-CRC, no as CRC is in CONCACAF)

A semi-final would be a dream assignment and a platinum star for the US team.

In any case, I believe the whole team is in the running with their excellent work. While we may not see them again ... Mark at 39 is ripe for the next World Cup in 2018 with some amazing experience under his belt.

We'll see ... but be assured I am pulling for our remaining US team.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Making more of a believer out of a fool

In looking out over our local expanse to see who has actually picked up on the fact that Mark Geiger is doing the US refereeing core proud I found "Mark Geiger flips the Geiger Counter" from The Philly Soccer Page.

It's not a bad read in general actually. It has pretty good, intelligent, largely articulate articles on The Game. Then again, it serves as a pretty good platform to bash referees as well.

In the article Earl Gardner starts off great, giving credit where credit is due in citing several sources and agreeing that Mark is knocking it out of the park so far in Brazil as our (as in yours too Earl) US referee representative. So much so that he even is considering at least a historical revision of the "Geiger Counter" which is a less than clever way to beat the hell out of Mark. Here is the comment from the article:

"You see, Mark Geiger has been the standard of poor or overzealous officiating in Major League Soccer for three years here at The Philly Soccer Page."

Nice huh?

So while Earl passes kudos to Mark for a job well done, his conclusions about how that has occurred shows what a true neophyte he is to the art of refereeing.

In essence he states that Mark's style is to let the match go until he needs to come roaring in to save it with some dramatic decision. Specifically from the article:

"Accept that this is the league’s culture and call a looser game, stepping in only when things threaten to get out of hand."

He continues by saying that this style fits International play at the World Cup and that Mark essentially got lucky that players are working with him because that's the only way he knows how to control a match.

Foolishness of that assertion aside that Mark (or any referee for that matter) does not try and at times successfully make adjustments to their decision types at a match or a tournament, it also shows a lack of knowledge, not only by the fact that referees for this tournament have been working international matches for months but also have been through lengthy training about how they want matches decided at this World Cup.

It also precludes the fact that adjustments by (US) FIFA referees going from MLS to Olympics to CONCACAF qualifiers to World Cup and up and down and all around happen all the time and frankly are really freaking hard. Somehow Mark has been successful at all of these ... why?

Because he successfully adjusts to the level he is refereeing. A concept that Earl dismisses outright in Mark's ability to "get it right" at the World Cup.

Do you wonder why many FIFA on a World Cup referees over here don't generally do regular league matches? Its to keep them dialed in to what they need to focus on, which is the international game.

Earl has no concept of this reality.

While he pays platitudes in "flipping the Geiger Counter" which is now miraculously to him a measure of how good a referee is, not how bad, the sentiment of the article falls flat, just as platitudes do.

So while Earl believes that Mark simply found gold under a rock that he stepped on, anyone with even a scintilla of soccer knowledge knows better.

It was at least a half hearted effort by Earl to give a referee some credit.

Credit where credit is due indeed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

53 Is His New Lucky Number

Referee designations for matches 53 and 54

FIFA has announced the referees for FIFA World Cup™ matches 53 and 54. France-Nigeria in the Round of 16 will be officiated by Mark Geiger. For the 39-year-old American, it will be his third match in this competition after Colombia-Greece and Spain-Chile. Geiger has been an international referee since 2008 and he oversaw the finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2011 and the CONCACAF U-20 Championship that same year. In 2012, he was in charge of two matches at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament and in 2013, he refereed at the FIFA Club World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, from FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: Outstanding! I look forward to another excellent performance by Mark!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

He bites me ... He bites me not

So for folks looking on at ITA v. URU we were treated to a pretty good match, and a gruesome incident in the 79' when Uruguay's Luis Suarez appears to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Take a look here for video and HD stills which may make the case.

Now I am not going to take up the did he or did he not bite Chiellini. My question is, if the referee did not see the incident with his very own eyes, can he take action on it? After all Chiellini and most of the Italian team ran over to the referee showing him what appeared to be a bite mark on his shoulder.

My answer to the question is a resounding YES! A referee can, and frankly should, take action even absent directly witnessing an incident.

Now be careful ... do ends justify the means? So in other words if a referee misses a tackle, and a player winds up with a broken leg, should they get sent off?

My answer here is a resounding NO! Just because a "bad thing" has occurred, does not automatically give rise to punitive action by the referee, there has to be causation, not just correlation.

That difference is stark. As an example, shark attacks on humans track with ice cream sales at the beaches that the attacks occur at. Causation? So are we saying that ice cream sales at  a beach cause shark attacks? Absolutely not, there is simply a correlation between the two.

(Please note the irony as sharks attack by biting)

Same inside the field ...

If a situation occurs that you as a referee do not witness, and assuming that none of the assistants saw it, 4th official (we know that guy!) and you can't somehow glean the information from (for example) the jumbotron in that small space in time when you need to make a decision, then you need to ask causation or correlation.

In our case, bite marks in the back of a player and the offending player holding his mouth is strongly causal ... but is it enough?

Referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez (MEX) did not think so, but I may disagree with that outcome.

Don't get me wrong, to turn around and send Suarez off at that point would take big brass ones, and likely (and wrongly) end the tournament for Rodriguez ... but is it the right thing to do for The Game.

Now, if FIFA fails to take any action, or any meaningful action (like fine Suarez) then shame on FIFA and it bolsters my thoughts to send him off and let FIFA sort out the protests.

In much the same way we would likely send off a player in a Sunday league (for their own safety) if they perpetrated such an offense, the same should hold here.

Of course that is not really true as the laws of physics change at this tournament ... but something so vile to the game should not be an exception.

By the way ... thoughts on a call here? Rodriguez knew something was up enough to stop play for something that happened behind the play ... so we have a free kick, likely direct. What about the send off (if there were one)?

Yes, Violent Conduct, NOT Serious Foul Play as it occurred away from the ball.

I'll update on punishment from FIFA, but as of now they have started an investigation, focusing primarily on the referees report (ya think those need to be well written?).

They do however have the option of (2) year or (24) International Match ban if they have sufficient evidence, beginning with the referees report. Check out Article 19 from the FIFA Disciplinary Code to see that little nugget.

From there, it will be interesting to see if they choose to use video evidence from the (34) cameras watching the match ... and if they want to ban one of their stars from their tournament.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Prepare for 120'+

Today re-taught many of us a necessary lesson ... which is you need to referee (or play) for 120'+ minuets.

During the Portugal v. USA match we saw two of the three teams remember this lesson. Portugal, who scored a great goal in the 95' and the refereeing team, who by my standards did an excellent job. Our USA team however, lost heir minds in the 95' and lapsed completely, allowing an equalizer that saw their Round of 16 berth quashed ... for now.

Some may ask me to give USA a break given their (truly) excellent play and come back from 1-0 to truly dominate 90' of the 95' of the match.

I give them the same break any referee would get if they stopped refereeing the last 5' of the match ... none at all.

If you set foot inside the pitch, be ready for the full measure. That means 90' plus extra time, overtime, and penalties.

Train and prepare for 120'+.

It may cost you a match one day.

It may cost Team USA an early exit out of this World Cup today.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beat that FIFA

FIFA bans players from wearing Beats by Dre headphones at the World Cup

You may have noticed U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley sporting a pair of black Beats By Dre prior to the national team’s first group game against Ghana, but it’s probably the last time you’ll see them.

Due to a licensing deal with Sony, FIFA has banned players from wearing rival headphones like Beats while they’re at official World Cup venues. According to Reuters, Sony sent every player a free pair of headphones to wear instead. ...

See the whole story here, from USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: I get this move from FIFA actually as I have been sponsored in the past and they get cranky if you don't use their stuff ... even if it stinks.

Not saying that Sony headphones stink, but I'd bet that the Beats headphones Bradley is sporting are far superior to what FIFA via Sony has provided.

There is a solution however that I have used to effect in the past ... put athletic tape over the logo.

Problem solved.

Then again maybe we should give them a break as they did put some degree of pressure on FIFA over the corruption allegations surrounding them. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Even in Legos it was a soft penalty

See it here, from The Guardian.

I ham happy however Brick by Brick is back!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interesting ... and Misguided

World Cup Mania: Figuring Out FIFA, Soccer & Tax

We are in full World Cup mode at my house. My kids are huge soccer fans (you may know this if you’re a regular reader) and they’ve been counting down to the first game (Brazil beat Croatia) for months. They’ve made posters and charts and insisted on buying souvenirs, including a stuffed version of the Fuleco, the armadillo who serves as the current World Cup mascot.

And predictably, they have peppered me with questions, mostly about FIFA since the initials appear on everything from Fuleco to the game balls. What is it? Who runs it? And their favorite question: who gets to keep all of that money? ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Forbes.

Kicking Back Comments: While written for a 5th grader ... "FIFA is also known for handing out some pretty important awards. " ... there are a couple of nuggets in there (in particular financials) worth looking at ... but little else.

Yes Ms. Erb, FIFA is doing exactly what it said it would ... robbing some of the poorest people in the world absolutely blind.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Hero, a Villain, and an Unlikely Vindication

Well then, it has been a busy first few days for the World Cup eh?

We opened with controversy right form the 1st match (match report) with Yuichi Nishimura. An experienced and frankly "safe" choice for FIFA, as I expected an exhibition match. No one expected Brazil to perform so poorly AND Croatia to play as well as they did.

As we know the controversy surrounds the penalty decision Nishimura-san made in the 71st minute to allow Brazil to go ahead 2-1. A pivotal moment in the match and one that I believe if not called, the match would have drawn. 

Now, I am NOT one of the conspiracy theorists that believe that this was all a plot to quell the protests in Brazil and the only was FIFA gets out with its hide is by Brazil winning it all.

What I do believe is that Nishimura-san fell for an excellent simulation from Fred. Alexi Lalas was very good in his analysis stating that is was the right time, place, and type of simulation to get that call. He was not particularly critical of the referee, and nor am I, frankly because Fred cheated to get that decision.

But honestly folks, this is the biggest of the big leagues and you have to be ready for it.

FIFA's refereeing director Massimo Busacca didn't do anyone any referees in the tournament a favor with his mealy mouthed support of Nishimura-san, saying essentially that if players did not touch each other, there would be no issues.

Wow ... stunning repartee Massimo. How about this ... we reviewed the replays and it seemed clear that Fred simulated a foul and even for this attempt we are fining him $10,000 for his lack of "fair play."

So now Nishimura-san is the villain, when it was really Fred who caused the issue. I don't think we will see him again in this tournament, sadly.

Our hero should be Ravshan Irmatov, (and SB Nation agrees) with his perfect advantage decision that allowed Switzerland to score in the 93' (match report). This was no easy advantage either kids. The foul was just outrageous, it occurred deep in the middle 3rd, and it was not clear if the player wanted to keep playing.

Irmatov was perfect and allowed the PLAYERS TO DECIDE what would come next. He let them play when they wanted to and set the stage for the magic to happen.

You see, here's where Busacca should be shouting. FIFA's headline should not have been,
Super subs play vital Swiss role, it should have been, Superb Refereeing Allows Stunning Result.

So now we have our hero, and believe we will see him again very soon.

Our unlikely vindication came during France v. Honduras (match report) where, you guessed it, GLT was put into practice.

Take a look at this article from Dirty Tackle, it sums it up quite nicely.

I'll be honest, the coverage on this was awful as the commentators themselves had no clue, and frankly were not aided by anyone in the booth at all to get the correct angle.

Also the crappy image to animated goal line looks was awful. Just give us the 10 frames right before and right after it crosses ... that's all we need folks. By the way, the low bidder GoalControl system FIFA is using should have this raw feed from at least 14 angles as that is how it makes the determination.

So for now, a vindication of GLT, but with a need to put a much better public face on it. While (and I'm taking this somewhat on faith) accurate, absent a clean video feed it was clear that there was confusion all over the place ... from a system designed to remove that confusion.

Also, and finally, with this technology I believe it has advanced the wrong discussion. Instead of asking the AR, "What did you see?" or "Do you think you were in position?", it now serves to absolve the AR as the question becomes "what did the technology say?"

It also serves to open the gate for instant replay from FIFA's Dear Leader. You think GLT was a nightmare ... wait for this.

In or out matters, that is clear, but so does the humanity involved in managing such situations from the people asked to manage these matches. Stripping away that humanity bit by bit comes at an ultimate cost or losing it entirely.

Friday, June 13, 2014

“Lots of luxury and little heart”

In Brazil, Jeers and Cheers for Government and FIFA

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil reaffirmed its reputation as a powerhouse of global soccer in the opening match here of the World Cup on Thursday, setting off street parties around the country, but its widening political fissures were also on display for an international audience.

Thousands of fans inside the new stadium made obscene jeers against both President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA, the organization that oversees international soccer and the World Cup, reflecting anxieties and discontents of an economic slowdown, spending on lavish stadiums and reports of corruption involving FIFA itself. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: With the FIFA EX-CO largely calling for Sepp to step down ... I hope he enjoys his final World Cup as FIFA boss. It would seem clear the Brazilian people largely will not.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Can @Sony Provide Us Help?

Qatar 2022: Fifa sponsor demands 'appropriate investigation'

Fifa is under growing pressure over its controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

One of its main sponsors, Sony, has called on the governing body to carry out an "appropriate investigation" into claims of wrongdoing during the bidding process.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times has published new allegations based on a leak of millions of secret documents.

Qatar were awarded the right to stage the 2022 World Cup in December 2010. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: While I am very curious to see what an "Appropriate Investigation" looks like, I have at least some hope that if other sponsors get on board with this, we have a shot at a revote, and one that it will likely go to the UK, US, or Japan ... any of these would be great to see.

Let's see what their other sponsors are going to say.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

So True General Patton

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

On this, the 15th anniversary of Stephen A. Kokolski's death, I have been reflecting not on just that loss, nor the loss of the other giants in sport, and in humanity, Ernie Branco, Frank Hasek, and Frank Scarscella but more what these men have given back to the fabric of what we hold most dear.

Patton was right, can any of us imagine if any or all of these folks never lived or took on the things they did for us?

It is a staggering thought frankly and underscores to me why folks like this give more of themselves for such causes ... because in the most unselfish, unassuming way, they recognized very early on that the story does not advance if we all do things for ourselves only.

These men all deserve praise both in their own accomplishments, which unto themselves are significant, but also, what each of these men did for The Game and all who participate in it.

For me, that is their true legacy, and one I will remember on this solemn day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What's the Point?

What is the point of Fifa now it has damaged the World Cup?

Did you know that the last time the World Cup was held in Brazil, in 1950, only 13 teams took part? England flew there: the flight took 31 hours, stopping in Paris, Lisbon, Dakar and Recife, and when the squad landed in Rio de Janeiro three men in gas masks stepped on to the plane and sprayed everyone on board with pesticide.

I didn’t know that, I admit. Not all of it, and certainly not the pesticide bit, so let me heartily recommend Nick Brownlee’s new book Viva World Cup which boasts the above paragraph as an intro. It is a mix of historical facts and arcane trivia, just the thing for whiling away those empty hours waiting for a game to start by taxing your friends with a few not-so-general knowledge questions. ...

See the whole article here courtesy of the Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: This great article asks my favorite question ... why? In this case the actual question is why continue to go on with FIFA if it is unable to represent The Game with integrity?

There is another way of course. To leave FIFA and begin again. Start fresh and give The Game the honor it deserves.

More and more associations are hinting that way, but who would jump first?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Slick Willie Trashes Hotel Room

Bill Clinton Was So Angry When Qatar Got The 2022 World Cup He Broke A Mirror In His Hotel Room

Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Business Insider.

Kicking Back Comments: In reading the article Bill trotted out several "stars" including: Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman, and Spike Lee.

Yeah, this Spike Lee ...

Photo courtesy of Nike
Who would have thunk it ... 

He looks pretty good in the kit to boot.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Remember Kids ... Stay In School

Over this last weekend I had the rare and prestigious opportunity to give the keynote address to the refereeing core of the 2014 Massachusetts State Cup.

Our topic was "Command Presence" and seemed to resonate well with the group who, as I scanned the room, were fully engaged in the topic.

Speaking with a few folks throughout the weekend it was great to see that many of these referees were substantially on their way in a career. More than a few asked about work/life/refereeing balance and how I did it when I was a youth referee that eventually transitioned to the professional game.

I was more than happy to share my opinions of the difficulty of maintaining everything at once, but was also thrilled that most are seeing refereeing as a really good paid hobby (my words not theirs).

As I have said here before several times, refereeing soccer in the US is not a sustainable full time profession. Yes, I recognize there are a very few who do this for a living, but understanding what some of the salaries are, I personally ask if it is worth it ... and I certainly don't think it is a sustainable model.

I was reminded of all of this recently when I caught an article about Emma Watson graduating from Brown University. Here is a person that in all likelihood does not need to worry about too much by way of a career given her accomplishments to date, but she clearly recognized the importance of education, or a trade, and clearly took it to heart with her recent degree.

Read this now, believe me later, refereeing is not going to pay all your bills in the future ... go to school or learn a trade, and referee for fun without the pressure of needing that next assignment for a paycheck. You will be better off as a person and a referee.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Well that took balls ...

adidas Brazuca Final Rio unveiled

adidas has unveiled the brazuca Final Rio Official Match Ball, the official match ball for the Final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The ball will be an integral part of the fixture on 13 July, when two teams will do battle for a place in history.

The design of brazuca Final Rio has been inspired by the green and gold on the FIFA World Cup Trophy and is a variation of the previously released adidas brazuca Official Match Ball, which was launched back in December last year. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: I have to say honestly I am fascinated by the choice (i.e. the naming) of the World Cup balls since 1982 with the Tango ...

A complete history can be found here, from Soccer.Com.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How The 2014 FIFA World Cup Became The Worse Publicity Stunt In History

Back in 2007, when Brazil was awarded the right to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the South American nation was experiencing its best economic period in decades. That year Brazil’s economy expanded by 4.5%, thanks to capital flowing into the country from foreign investors. Inflation was under control and the currency strong. And the gap between the rich and the poor finally seemed to be shrinking a bit. The country of the future was, at last, catching up with its vast potential.

Fast-forward to May 2014: consumer confidence has plummeted, and the economy contracted in consecutive quarters (from Q4 2013 to Q1 2014) for the first time since the depths of the 2008-09 global financial crisis, and about two weeks prior to hosting the biggest single-event sporting extravaganza on earth, Brazil is in the midst of a degree of chaos that in no way resembles the image of the country that was sold by its leaders to the world seven years ago. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Forbes.

Kicking Back Comments: A good article that details how political ambitions coupled with a country that may not quite have the infrastructure to pull off something of a World Cup scale may be bad for the host ... and horrible for FIFA.

Monday, May 26, 2014

With Respect and Thanks ...

To all who gave their last measure to defend us.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

President's Cup Match Report Day 2

So ends another day of refereeing this wild and crazy tournament.  Well, not too crazy, overall it has gone well and the tournament organizers have mostly good things to say!

Today I was privileged to be the Senior Assistant Referee on a competitive Girls U16 semifinal match.  The two teams, one from New Hampshire and the other from Massachusetts (Yes I was allowed to be on that match since I was not the center).  My partners were a referee from Pennsylvania and one from NH.  I quickly bonded with these gentlemen over lunch prior to our game and we developed a strong rapport, which aided us greatly during the match.  Communication was spot on -- and it was needed, because the game was close, ending in a 2-2 draw after regulation and extra time.  And so we entered the dreaded (well, not for us) kicks from the penalty mark (see! I used the right lingo!  I'd probably be kicked off this blog if I called it a penalty shootout).  In a tense shootout, the NH team advanced to the final, and my crew came out unscathed with glowing remarks from the assessor.  A strong shout out to the Pennsylvania East representative in the middle, who put in a stellar performance.

Like the last couple of days, we wrapped up the evening with dinner and a large referee meeting.  There, they announced the referees that would be going to the National President's Cup, and also the referees for the various finals to be held tomorrow.  Massachusetts has 1 representative going, and 4 officials (or 40% of our referees) in final matches.  Unfortunately I was not selected :-( but the silver lining is that the other referees not selected and myself will be able to watch the games our friends are in.

I'll also be able to take some pictures, so I encourage you to follow the #MassRegionalRefs and #MassTourneyRefs hashtags on instagram and twitter for more updates.  Also check the Massachusetts State Referee Committee page for more up to date news about the event.

Catch you next time!

Saw this one coming ... but not the crazy tweet!

Klinsmann defends Donovan World Cup snub

USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann defended his decision to keep all-time American top scorer Landon Donovan out of his FIFA World Cup™ squad, saying the 32-year-old striker simply was not good enough.

"The other strikers we see that inch ahead of him," Klinsmann said. "We feel those guys are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas. That's why we made that decision."

Former German star international and coach Klinsmann noted how Donovan's game has evolved as he has grown older with fewer one-on-one attacks and charges into the penalty area. He reflected how players gain experience as they get older but "maybe physically they lose a little bit of an edge". ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: Still not buying it and in fact feel even more strongly based on Jurgen's comments. I'll add to it too with Jurgen's punk 17 year old son maligning LD in a tweet following the announcement. You can see it, and some of the reaction here.

Now, I'm not getting all conspiracy theory and genuinely believe that Jurgen was short cited for many of the right reasons, and the thing with his son was just a classless act by a 17 year old. That said, I think the damage was done with the announcement when even the veterans on the team were surprised.

In the long haul I don't think this bodes well of Jurgen, who has a contract through 2018. There are enough questions swirling around to make things very uncomfortable from now through the early exit the US will have in Brazil.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Today's Match Report

Like in other tournaments and online, making sure the match report is filled out and delivered to the proper authorities is number one.

Like number one.

As in, if you break a leg, before you call the ambulance, make sure you drop off your match report number one (OK not really but you get the idea).

So while I want to conk out into a coma before starting again tomorrow, here is a brief summary of today's antics events.

While some start at 8 AM, I was fortunate to have my first game at 9:45AM, allowing me to have a leisurely breakfast with my referee crew - and as a result a bit of an extended pregame.  My crew consisted of 2 very nice, professional and skilled referees from the Eastern Pennsylvania and Eastern New York state associations.  One of my favorite things about these tournaments is the opportunity to meet new people and hear about the little things leagues do in various places.  But we couldn't chat forever as we had a tough (or so we anticipated) 3 game set of U16 games to take care of.

The first game was also important since it was my center and I was being assessed by John Paine, a former FIFA referee and current USSF National Assessor.  It was great to have him give me constructive criticism on a match, as he pointed out some of my habits and techniques that needed to be worked upon.  The match unfortunately wasn't very difficult.  To quote Mr. Paine "Easy Game.... and you kept it easy!"  So while I performed well, I wasn't particularly challenged.  Perhaps tomorrow will be different!

After that, I was the Assistant Referee for my 2 partners, and we all had relatively easy games.  Our hopes are that the performances we put in will put us in consideration for some semifinals and finals in the upcoming couple of days!

At the end of the game, the local state referee association catered a lovely BBQ dinner where refs from the different associations were able to mingle and trade war stories.  I heard something about a 3 straight red card slugfest, easy blowouts, and a world-class bicycle kick from a U12 player.

So all in a day's work :-).

Catch you tomorrow!  I'm going to track down some of the Mass referees during my break tomorrow and see if I can take some good photos.  Make sure to follow the #MassRegionalRefs and #MassTourneyRefs hashtags on instagram and twitter!

#Cannes2014 #UnitedPassions #LooksAwful

... But please, you be the judge.

Comments on YouTube however are #Priceless. Here's one:

Friday, May 23, 2014

US Youth Soccer Regional Tournament Reporting!

Hi all!  My name is Marc and you can find me taking over the Kicking Back blog over the next couple of days whilst I blog about the shenanigans experiences of the Massachusetts Referee Delegation at the US Youth Soccer Region 1 President's Cup.  Perhaps you'll learn something or be mildly amused by reading this (hopefully both!).

For those of you who don’t know, the President's Cup was created by US Youth Soccer as a “mid-level competition for those looking to play against teams of similar abilities for a National Championship Title" Don’t be fooled by ‘mid-level’ though, it’s a big deal!  At least so I’m told...  We'll find out!

Full disclosure, this will be my first regional event, so I’m definitely new at this, I intend to share my experiences and observations, however entertaining/dull/boring/fascinating they may be. :-)

The crew this morning met at Boston Logan bright and early.  I’m not certain whose idea it was to take the 6:30 AM flight, but nevertheless we all made it on time and had no hiccups through security or at check in.  Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we stopped by Pittsburgh's famous "Luca's Diner" for a hearty breakfast.  After all, you cannot referee on an empty stomach!

After a short drive north, we ended up at Slippery Rock, PA and checked into our dorm rooms at the aptly named Slippy Rock University.  While we are relaxing now prior to dinner and our evening meetings, you can definitely feel a positive buzz of excitement amongst the delegation.  All 10 referees (and our Head of Delegation and Assessor) are ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.  Hopefully we'll have many great stories to report!

I intend to keep you updated on what is going throughout the weekend, but in addition to that some of the referees and myself will be tweeting and instagramming about the event using the hashtags #MassTourneyRefs and #MassRegionalRefs.  Also make sure to follow @MA_Referees over on Twitter throughout the tournament season! 

No LD?!?!?! Big Mistake

U.S. announces final World Cup roster; Donovan excluded

The player widely regarded as the greatest in American soccer history will be watching the World Cup from home. Landon Donovan was among the seven players cut from the United States' 23-player World Cup roster on Thursday. It was expected to be his fourth and final World Cup.

Though Jurgen Klinsmann had been clear about his expectations for Donovan, few expected Donovan to be left off the roster entirely. As a result, expect the team's success or failure to be judged through the prism of Klinsmann's decision. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: I think this is Jurgen's first huge mistake as the US Coach. Let's face it kids, the US is out after the 1st round short of a miracle. (You can see the group here) I suppose you could also have something like what Jens Voigt described in cycling parlance below:

So with this in mind, and in Jurgen's own words there is only a "little" difference between LD and the rest of the team he was competing with ... give LD the nod. He has done more for the US Game than many others at that level ... tip the cap, give him the honor. He has earned it.

Our team is going nowhere this year in Brazil, and while Jurgen may be thinking about experience for these guys for 2018, I think a single spot can be for one who has done what LD has done ... and also has performed at or near the same level as others. If that is Jurgen's actual thinking I find it a bit too rigid and frankly a mistake.

If his reasoning is other, like LD's walkabout recently, or that Jurgen just does not like him, then own the decision to exclude him on that basis. Please don't pretend to exclude a pre-legend like LD on the basis he is ... not ... quite ... there.

Don't believe me? How about this from Jerry Hinnen on CBS Sports which says:

"The bottom line is that the friction between Klinsmann and Donovan was an open secret -- has been an open secret for a while -- and it's not easy to find reasons other than that friction for the selection of Davis, in particular, at Donovan's expense. The belief here is that Donovan isn't being left at home because he's out of form; being out of form merely gave Klinsmann enough of an excuse to that he could leave Donovan at home. Ultimately, it's not a soccer decision, though even Klinsmann may be telling himself it is."

Big mistake Jurgen. Put your bias away and do the right thing for the US Game ... and LD who helped form it in this generation.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Matches

I went to the local park this past Sunday to take in some soccer. After the cold, snow and rain of the previous six months, it was great to finally get to watch a game without having to wear an overcoat. Beautiful skies with scattered puffy clouds and the temperature dancing around 68 degrees with a whisper of a breeze to give life to the budding trees in the background. Short sleeves all around.

The game in progress upon arrival was an adult women's game. This was obviously a lower division of play, and had a recreational atmosphere to it. Uniform requirements were a little lax, with many players wearing T-shirts of a proximate color, and in some cases simple scrimmage vests instead of jerseys. Players joked a bit with opponents about missing open chances and apologized for accidental collisions, occasionally joking with the referee as well. There were a few husbands sunning themselves on a blanket or reading a paperback book in a lawn chair. I never could figure out who was rooting for which team. We applauded good play regardless.

My neighboring spectator soon struck up a conversation with me. He was originally from Mubai and now lives near the field, On this day he was out for a walk and decided to stop to watch the game. He said he used to play when he was younger, and explained that soccer is big in his country. After a bit he continued on his way.

I reflected about how perfect this day was. Perfect weather, perfect game, perfect atmosphere. There was no place on this earth I would have rather been at that moment.

Later that by same day, I stopped at another field and watched a children's game. The level of play was 5-6 years old, and this was their introductory season of organized soccer. There were about six players on the field for each team, although at times it was hard to count since they all clustered together. Each team did look sharp in matching uniforms right down to the socks. They were assisted in their learning by several adult "coaches" that joined them on the field, and helped steer the herd toward some mysterious goal. 

In this game, the atmosphere was completely different. There was a cacophony of shouts from the on-field coaches as well as the assembled parents. "Go Johnny, kick it up the field!" "Now run and get it Sarah!" "This way, this way!" The pressure was palpable. The little tykes tried to do something to gain the approval of the adults, although it seemed most had no idea how to actually achieve that mission. 

What a contrast between those two games! I found myself wondering why the atmosphere that flourished in the adult game was not allowed to grow in the children's match. Does anyone really believe the experience of those 5-year-olds to be of any lasting value for a child of that age? Are those entry level leagues doing more harm than good?

On my drive home, I wondered how many people went to that children's game and thought to themselves that there was no place else in the world they would rather be at that moment. Sadly, I doubt anybody had that feeling.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mon Depardieu!

Sepp Blatter launches FIFA movie at Cannes film festival after spending £16million on production costs

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has caused yet another storm by committing the world football body to the multi-million-pound funding of a film that is regarded as little more than a giant vanity project.

United Passions, which was launched with Blatter in attendance at the Cannes film festival yesterday, tells the history of FIFA through founder Jules Rimet, played by Gerard Depardieu, Joao Havelange and Blatter himself — who is depicted by Tim Roth. ...

See the whole story here, from Mail Online.

Kicking Back Comments: Ohhhhhhhhh I gotta see this one. I can see why it is being called a vanity project as sources have FIFA bankrolling about 84% if the total cost of the film ... which is not getting great reviews.

Ah well, at least I'm sure I'll get a laugh when I see it. Watch for the full review here!

Monday, May 19, 2014


Award of World Cup to Qatar ‘a mistake’, admits Sepp Blatter

French and German government officials went through the motions yesterday of rejecting Sepp Blatter’s suggestion that it had been the interest of big business in their two countries that had been a key factor in Qatar being awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Neither, though, bothered to question the Fifa president’s assertion that choosing the middle-eastern emirate had been “a mistake”.

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Irish Times.

Kicking Back Comments: Gee Sepp, ya think it was a screw up? 

What is astounding to me is that it should not have been a mystery about how hot it was in Qatar during the time for the World Cup (June/July). If you look at any technical report (example of the 1984 Olympic Games is here) it's pretty clear this was a detail that was not missed, but rather ignored ... and without a mention of changing the dates of the tournament (I believe) for the 1st time in history.

Sepp's "apology" is not worth the breath he used to speak it. Like his leadership, it rang hollow and was plainly dishonest based on the economic reality of who stands to make millions it this tragic wake of a decision.

I always appreciate it when folks say "I screwed up ... and I'm sorry" ... so long as they actually mean it. For me, I don't believe for a New York minute Sepp did.

US 2022 "Dream Team" with FIFA's Dear Leader