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

Friday, May 16, 2014

You make the call: 4th Official Version

As I prepare this evening to address a group of referees regarding some thoughts on the 4th official, I recalled the below incident in the Bruins v. Montreal series where Shawn Thorton gave PK Subban a "carwash" during the last minute of Game 5. This incident is below, take a peek:

Now, my question is, if you were the 4th Official, standing in the shoes of Pierre McGuire (seen just to the right of the incident) what would you do, and how would you do it?

My thoughts in a few days ...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

38 Dead Children; 56 More Injured

Do I have your attention now?

I hope so, as these are the latest statistics detailed by Anchored for Safety, a non-profit group to raise awareness for goal safety, after the tragic death of Zach Tran who was killed in October of 2003 by a portable goal.

I was reminded of this again by NRAH author, Paul Levy, in his recent post "My personal bit of intolerance" and I certainly re-visited my post "That's netting to joke about."

Zach's heartbreaking story can be seen below, and at the linked sites.

As a referee, as a parent, a spectator ... any reason if you are walking by a portable goal, check to make sure its anchored. If its not, please fix it or get help to do so immediately.

Your actions will save a life.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

When in Doubt, Blame Brazil

World Cup 2014: Brazil putting FIFA ‘through hell,’ official says

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup only five weeks away, one might expect soccer’s global governing organization to be in a festive mood. But that isn’t stopping high-level FIFA officials from complaining about the tournament’s host country.

Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, said on Tuesday that FIFA is supporting Brazil to ensure the success of its premier event — the World Cup — but that the road leading up to the World Cup has been rocky, according to an AFP report. ...

See the whole story here, from SI Wire.

Kicking Back Comments: Aside from the whining, the funniest part of the article was Valcke stating that Russia will not be granted such leniency.

That's pretty funny. Russia will take what it wants from FIFA and they will like it.

Another part that struck me was the assertion (with conviction) that 2022 was going to be played in the winter. Did I miss a vote somewhere? How about an announcement from some TV sponsor about how this was going to work?

It continues to amaze me how much FIFA believes their own BS.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Legend has Left Us

Looking back in history I always find it fascinating to understand the trendsetters, the trailblazers. It is with sadness I have learned of the passing of referee legend and trendsetter, Frank Hasek at the age of 91.

Frank played professionally in Europe and began his refereeing career there, ultimately aspiring to FIFA referee in 1964, the very first from Massachusetts. A man who put us on the map as a refereeing community. 

In my experience however he was one of the most humble men about achieving such an accomplishment. His wisdom would come through in his long and at times very long stories, and would always have a fabulous point to them as they concluded.

He has helped so many in their career and I was among them.

So many great stories to tell, so much more to learn. 

Arrangements for Frank can be found on the MSRC website.

Officers from Portuguese Sports, John Medeiros, Frank Scarsella, Anthony Martone and Frank Hasek at MASS HOF Awards Ceremony

Friday, May 2, 2014

Words are not enough

It was a sad day indeed when I saw this article from Paul Levy at Not Running a Hospital:

"In memoriam: Frank Scarcella"

My words can not adequately express the loss of such an amazing human being who has touched me so deeply. I am proud to say I was one of his students, and learned so much from him.

Details on his arrangements can be found at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Brilliant Analysis from A Legend

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to the Finger-Wagging Olympics

It's time to look at ourselves — and our collective moral outrage — in the mirror, says former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking. All over the latest in a long line of rich white celebrities to come out of the racist closet. (Was it only a couple days ago that Cliven Bundy said blacks would be better off picking cotton as slaves? And only last June Paula Deen admitted using the “N” word?) ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Time.

Kicking Back Comments: Brilliant analysis from one of the games legends. It for me was also a stark reminder that many of these folks are more than the one dimension they are best known for. Then again, this situation has also reminded me that there are some that are no good at the one thing they are supposed to be doing.

The former is an important lesson to remember as people are multi-dimensional and while they may be known for one thing, likely have many other skills to back that up. The latter unfortunately is that some (not just Senator Reid which I cited) will use any misfortune to their own advantage or gain.

This is after all the variety that we could describe as the spice of life.