Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Here is another 2015 MLS controversy for you ...

Orlando City chief soccer officer Armando Carneiro leaves position

Orlando City's chief soccer officer Armando Carneiro has resigned for personal reasons, the MLS club announced on Monday.

Carneiro joined Orlando City from Porto less than two months ago to oversee operations and staff.

"We fully understand Armando's personal reasons for stepping down from his role and respect his wishes. We thank him for his help and wish him luck with his future career," Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said in a statement. ...

Seethe whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: This is not great news for OCSC and comes as a bit of a shock to me. Some have stopped to wonder if the personal reasons were the uncertainly of OCSC and MLS in general. Others have wondered if a move from a football power like Benfica, to well, an MLS team had something to do with it.

Either way, it is a loss for MLS and a stunning reversal after MLS was crowing about the arrival a little over a month ago. This is bigger than OCSC if I had to guess ... and that to me is a real controversy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

(My) Best of MLS Controversies 2015

Best of MLS Controversies 2015

No exciting season comes without a few flaps and dust-ups along the way. Along with the stunning highs of the season and tournaments this year came some equally dramatic controversies, too.

Here are some of the ones that got people talking (and typing) the most, as voted by the editorial staff. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: I duuno ... I think there are a few others in 2015 that caused and will cause a bigger stir.

First is NRP's column on America v. MLS and the stir it caused. While certainly accomplished, Deford is dead wrong and lacks vision in this case. In short, the games he has reported on and worshiped in his lifetime in the next 20 years, will begin to be in decline as others, like soccer and lacrosse continue to gain prominence.

Second, is the MLS relationship with Audi, whose parent company is Volkswagen. Just as Volkswagen is tainted courtesy of Dieselgate, so too may be Audi. While MLS Cup 2015 did not seem to be affected, what the future holds is less than certain.

Finally, the recent DOJ investigation ripping through FIFA has not excluded the Americans. Chuck Blazer and Aaron Davidson know this better than most right now as the later is still seeking a plea deal. While Sunil Gulati did not choose to appear before Congress (and gave a great answer why) there was speculation he too may know about the scandal rocking FIFA. If he or other Americans are implicated, that could be a significant set back for the MLS.

Somehow in the face of such a prospect, a player or two throwing a temper tantrum does not rate very highly for me.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Brilliance from NRAH

See "The NFL made a calculated attempt to exterminate me" from NRAH.

A must read and must see video to (in part) demonstrate how a sports league can try to warp perception on serious issues.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Straight From JAFO ... A Great Christmas Message

Hat tip to JAFO for the video below and the message it holds.

For all those serving, so we can enjoy peace, thank you.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

For Once Sepp is Right

Sepp Blatter dares FIFA's American sponsors to leave

Sepp Blatter, the banned president of FIFA, called out the organization's American sponsors on Tuesday, saying they will not end their sponsorships even if reform demands are not met.

"Companies, commercial partners are queuing up to get in," Blatter told The Wall Street Journal. "If the Americans want to leave, others will come. But they don't want to get out ... They won't leave." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of CNN Money.

Kicking Back Comments: As sad a comment as it is, Sepp seems to be 100% correct. 

I personally take great stock in how people (or companies) act, not in what their press release says. I and scores of other folks have written about the saber rattling the mighty sponsors of FIFA have done saying how unacceptable FIFA's behavior has become. Yet, for all that rattling, there has been no action from many.

In this same way, there are several companies that should be applauded for taking action. Castrol, Johnson & Johnson, Continental, Sony, and Emirates had the courage to stand up and drop their sponsorship of FIFA. While some have stated in a few of those cases the sponsorship was up for renewal, the salient point is, they did not renew due in part to the deplorable mess that is FIFA.

Even in the face of the ethical challenges outright corruption (this is a brilliant video) and employment contract issues human right violationsseveral companies continue to fund these activities. Several others are also cued up ready to hand over the monies they have earned from customers as well.

At this point I can't classify their desire as less than knowingly supporting corruption and human rights violations. While each of these companies has ethical issues of their own (see ADIDAS,  Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyudani, McDonalds, note that Visa to give then their due was recently voted one of the most ethical) their efforts to give monies to FIFA who propagates this corruption makes them no better.

Yet they line up and yes ... Sepp is right, they will not leave. So for all the noise they make about ethical behavior, they do nothing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger to play Sepp Blatter in "United Passions" remake

Sepp Blatter blames United States for his eight-year FIFA ban

Sepp Blatter blamed the U.S. for the eight-year ban handed down by FIFA over ethics violations on Monday, an apparent jab at a federal investigation responsible for several indictments of officials from soccer's international governing body.

"If we had awarded the World Cup in 2022 to the USA, we would not be here,” Blatter said in Italian at a meandering, nearly one-hour news conference.

Blatter was found guilty of violating FIFA’s ethics rules, allegations that centered around a $2 million payment Blatter approved for Michel Platini, a FIFA vice president and head of the Union of European Football Associations. Platini, once the former front-runner to replace Blatter, also received an eight-year suspension. Both had already received provisional bans. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: One of the things I find funny is that Sepp for all his "... it's the USA's fault ..." has hired an attorney from ... yeah, the US. Richard Cullen from McGuire Woods is representing him in the matter. Some may say, the best money can buy. Then again, with Cullen's close ties to the DOJ and FBI, it is a most excellent choice.

My title of course comes from Sepp's exiting line of "I'll be back" when he huffed his way out of the hearing Monday. 

What is certain however is that United Passions was a massive failure, only making $200K at the box office, and having bonafide actors like Tim Roth say United Passions was "awful."  Even the trailer is awful.

I honestly think Hollywood should do a movie on FIFA. Not the shimmering propaganda piece that was United passions, but a real honest to goodness behind the scenes of FIFA.

It has to be better than United Passions ... or the alternate titles they were considering.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Eight years is not enough ... but it is a good start

Fifa: Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini get eight-year bans

Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Uefa boss Michel Platini have been suspended for eight years from all football-related activities following an ethics investigation.

They were found guilty of breaches surrounding a £1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment" made to Platini in 2011.

The Fifa ethics committee found Blatter and Platini had demonstrated an "abusive execution" of their positions.

"I will fight for me and for Fifa," Blatter, 79, said at a news conference.

The bans come into force immediately. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: While this is a step in the right direction, it is far from over. Eight years is not nearly enough for what Sepp has been convicted of doing. While in essence this is a life sentence from him given his age of 79 (making him eligible to participate again at 87) not so for Platini who is only 50 and would become eligible at 58.

No of course Sepp blamed everyone but himself and was defiant in the hearing. His next step would seem to be the Court of Arbitration and Sport (CAS) which has ethical issues of its own in my view. Even there however, I think Sepp is in some trouble. Not because he is corrupt, but even worse, the world needs a head on a pike to make people start to feel better about FIFA.

That head it would seem, will be Sepp Blatter's.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Francly my dear ... I don't give a damn

Fifa scandal: Large cash sums frozen by Switzerland

Fifty Swiss bank accounts allegedly linked to world football governing body Fifa have been frozen.

US officials believe "corruption money" may have been moved through the now frozen accounts, the Swiss justice ministry said.

Between 50m and 100m Swiss francs ($50.1m-100.2m; £34m-£67m) was in them, media reports say. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: I continue to find it the height of irony that the country who many in the rest of the world feel is a 3rd rate soccer power, is single handedly cleaning it up.

Will this be our legacy to The Game?

And for any who wondered where the title came from ... 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Who Cares?

Referee Bill Kennedy, following slur by Rajon Rondo, announces he's gay

Veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy has announced he is gay.

"I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man," Kennedy told Yahoo Sports. "I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: So before PC Principal comes to find me, the title of the article is not meant to demean Bill Kennedy for announcing he is a homosexual.

My comment is meant to ask, what difference does it make if Rondo made a slur of any type toward a referee? Why should it matter if the particular referee is gay or not? Rondo should get the book thrown at him for his words, period. 

The punishment handed down to Rondo is, by NBA standards, fairly astounding. I believe this is the first time an NBA player has been suspended for comments to a referee in the last 3 or 4 years, where a fine suffices in such cases.

From reports, the comment Rondo made came after he was given a lightning fast pair of technical fouls and was going to get his moneys worth for being run. These comments included a "homophobic slur" in his rant. That is if Rondo knew Kennedy was gay.

This has a couple of dimensions however as the Celtics and Kennedy have some history. Specifically Doc Rivers and Rondo have had other unpleasant conversations with Kennedy in the past, and some reports have it going both ways. Also, Kennedy's sexual orientation was to many an "open secret" to NBA teams and referees alike. While understandably, Kennedy is a private man and did not share this fact publicly, it was apparently known in NBA circles. 

[For any who care to take the flip side of the coin where no one knew of Kennedy's orientation, then frankly this is not an issue at all other than Rondo's bad behavior.]

Why then does it deserve special treatment from the NBA front office?

So we have a player popping off to a referee ... and who used a slur during the tirade ...
What is so unusual?

How many times have we as referees (or in traffic) collectively had our sexuality, gender, race, family relationships, heritage, and just about anything else a player (or other driver) can think of questioned openly?

Please don't misunderstand me, it is not right, and I am not condoning it, but to say it is rare is just factually incorrect.

Is the NBA now going to suspend, not just fine, ANY player who uses that slur without regard to whom it is directed to? If so, why have they not up to this point?

There is a double standard at play here and if the NBA is going to fine players for calling referees names ... that's great and it seems appropriate. If the NBA is going to start playing PC Principal by suspending players for what they think is "insensitive", not so great and are in for a world of trouble. (As one example, they were in Mexico for this game ... what is Rondo called Kennedy a slur in Spanish that he did not understand? Still a suspension?)

If Rondo was really demeaning Kennedy regarding his sexuality, and the NBA can look into his heart and determine that, a single game without pay is not nearly enough punishment for something so heinous. If this was truly the case (as Tom Ziller seems to believe in his recent article) Rondo should go for a very, very, very long time.

Instructive on this is Roberto Alomar and what his words cost him in time and treasure ... or some may say, ultimately gained him in understanding. For those who forgot, not only did Alomar spit on umpire John Hirschbeck but then made reference to his kids, one who just died from ALS and another who at that time was diagnosed with it. Hirschbeck had to be physically restrained from doing physical harm to Alomar the next day by Umpire Legend Jim Joyce.

Interestingly, I wonder if the whole thing actually forced Kennedy to make the public announcement of his homosexuality. As without Rondo getting popped and the NBA making more of it than they have anything in the past regarding dissent, does this even come up?

I for one am not sure, but would hope it was a discussion with Kennedy on such an intensely personal issue and not a way for the new commish to "show force."

For the dissent however, who cares, Rondo was mad and popped off. Throw the book at him and lets move on. If truly the alternative, get Rondo out, and move on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Will the DOJ's investigation into FIFA hurt our efforts with ISIS?

US attorney general hopes Qatar cooperates in World Cup probe

The United States hopes Qatar will cooperate with the World Cup bidding investigation, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Wednesday, insisting that the Gulf nation being a key ally in the fight against Islamic State militants was irrelevant in any considerations about pursuing a corruption case.

The U.S. is working closely on the FIFA investigation with Swiss authorities, whose case started by probing the dual votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups five years ago. ...

See the whole story here, from Fox.

Kicking Back Comments: I have great hopes that AG Lynch is not so naive that she believes that an investigation which may strip the tiny desert nation of Qatar of its World Cup in 2022, does not have implications regarding the current operations and investigation we have regarding ISIS in the same country.

I learned this lesson long ago from a FIFA referee at a international tournament hosted in the US. While it was in regard to a US v. Mexico U17 match we did, the lesson was impactful that where countries are involved, sport, politics, economics, religion, and a very way of life are part of each match.

Ties between the peoples in Qatar involved in sport and politics are clearly the same ... as I would imagine are several government officials who are aware of various investigations. To think that one will not effect or at the very least, cross paths with the other is preposterous.

Qatar getting an opportunity to host a World Cup is a big deal for them. Countries pay big money for the chance to host ... and while I am speaking about bribes ... I am also speaking about the monies countries lay out to make that happen.

Do I think there are a few good people able to separate out ferreting out corruption from ferreting out bad guys? Yes.

Do I think the majority of people will be able to separate out those two things as distinct from the other and not look for favors in the process? No. Sadly.

To tell you the truth, that may be okay for me. I would rather give up the World Cup and get the bad guys than the other way around. In a perfect world it should be both, but we sadly do not live in such a Utopia.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Yes, it actually can get worse for FIFA

US steps up pressure against banks in Fifa probe

US prosecutors are threatening to punish banks for failing to report suspicious activity on Fifa-related accounts as part of the sprawling corruption probe into world football’s governing body, people familiar with the case told the Financial Times.

The criminal charges could have serious implications if prosecutors proceed. In 2014, JPMorgan Chase paid a $2bn penalty for failing to file such reports in relation to the so-called Ponzi scheme led by Bernard Madoff. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: The US DOJ is leaving no stone unturned with FIFA. I will be curious to see how many bank "spill the beans" on them in an effort to save their own skin and face very harsh fines if implicated in the matter. Either way, Ms. Lynch is earning her new title as "FIFA Slayer."

There is however a price that may have to be paid with regard to ISIS if the investigation keeps going the way it does. US, FIFA, and ISIS I think are about to intersect in an interesting way. It makes me wonder if Qatar will get its World Cup, so the US can pursue ISIS.

Stay tuned for that though later this week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Classless in Columbus

Columbus Crew supporters throw beer cans at Portland Timbers players during MLS Cup Final

Columbus Crew supporters hurled more than a dozen cans onto the field after Portland Timbers winger Rodney Wallace scored in the seventh minute of Sunday's MLS Cup Final.

The poor sportsmanship by Crew fans came as the Timbers players were attempting to celebrate the goal near the corner flag. The players had to quickly run back to midfield to avoid getting hit by the cans.

Stadium staff quickly cleaned up the cans and play continued. The stadium announcer then reminded the crowd that throwing items onto the field could lead to ejection. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: I am incredibly disappointed by the fan(atic) reaction to pelt players with beer cans and bottles. I am even more disappointed by the stadium reaction to quietly pick up the discarded cans and bottles and announce to not do it again or we may eject you. I am most disappointed by MLS to not come out and have these folks arrested or at the very least ejected and required to take the "MLS Fan Conduct Class."

Let's face it, this is a way for MLS (among others) to jam up spectators that go way too far in their actions during a game ... like throwing beer bottles into the field. For the non-trival sum of $250, you have to take this on line course to get your "stadium privileges" back. Sounds like a no brainer.

It of course is largely symbolic and means almost nothing as from the web site itself "These are educational courses only. They are not a substitute for medical or psychological advice or counseling. They are not a replacement or substitute for in or out patient treatment for alcohol or substance abuse."

Even with available remedies and a truly no-brainer solution to the serious threat Crew fan(atics) placed on the MLS Cup this year, MLS is seemingly going to do nothing. Not even a mention from Simon Borg in his final episode of Instant Replay this year.

Fortunately, MLS treats its own with substance issues much better. Frankly, the way a league should. I would just like to see this responsibility extend to the safety of the players and referees involved.

Monday, December 7, 2015

FIFA Should Have Stayed At a Holiday Inn Express Last Night

FIFA Corruption: Top Officials Arrested in Pre-Dawn Raid at Zurich Hotel

ZURICH — Swiss authorities began a new series of pre-dawn arrests Thursday in the broad investigation, led by United States officials, into corruption in international soccer. Sixteen people were expected to be charged by day’s end, law enforcement officials said, nearly doubling the size of an already huge case that has upended FIFA, soccer’s multibillion-dollar governing body.

Some of the arrests took place at the same luxury hotel where other FIFA officials were arrested in May. Swiss police entered the hotel, the Baur au Lac, through a side door at 6 a.m. local time. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: Listen, the Baur au Lac looks like a great place, but the Sheraton Zürich Neues Schloss Hotel is right down the street and frankly, less full of police looking to drag you off in the pre-dawn hours.

I do still laugh at the Holiday Inn Express commercials though ... here is one of my favorites.

Trust me folks, we will get to the despicable behavior of Columbus fans in yesterdays MLS Cup match ... I am just seeing what the MLS front office says before I comment fully.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

And to complete the MLS trinity ...

... I offer the 2015 refereeing crew for the MLS final.

MLS Cup 2015: PRO announce refereeing crew for final

The 2015 MLS Cup will see Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers go head-to-head at MAPFRE Stadium, and PRO's Jair Marrufo will referee the game after the Organization named him as the center official for Sunday's showdown (4pm EDT).

Marrufo will be assisted at a sold-out stadium by Peter Manikowski (AR1) and Corey Parker (AR2). Chris Penso will be on fourth official duties, while James Conlee is the fifth official.

PRO General Manager Peter Walton told "We have witnessed some very good officiating performances both in the regular season and throughout these Playoff games. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of PRO.

Kicking Back Comments: There is a good follow up on PRO here focusing on Jair. While named MLS referee of the year in 2008, he has not been without his controversy throughout his career in MLS. Then again, what referee doesn't that has been around long enough. He also has some tremendous shoes to fill from his father, Antonio, FIFA referee from Mexico.

I am happy to see him with this match and wish he and his entire crew a great game!  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

George Gansner, FIFA AR Extradonare, Announces Retirement

George Gansner turns attentions to family after announcing retirement

PRO assistant referee George Gansner says family will fill the officiating void when he retires at the end of the current season.

The 44-year-old has been assigned the Eastern Conference Championship first leg of the MLS Cup Playoffs, but will wave goodbye to the flag after a successful 19-year career at the conclusion of 2015.

Read more: 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs - Conference Championship first leg assignments

His time as an official includes such honors as being assigned to the 2005 MLS All-Star game and the 2007 U.S. Open Cup Final, as well as FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games qualifiers.

Gansner, who made his professional debut as an AR in 1999, is now looking forward to spending his spare time in the company of his loved ones.

“The bottom line on my decision to retire is simple – my family,” he told ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of PRO.

Kicking Back Comments: George is a class act that I have had the pleasure to work with several times and have always find him to be a professionals' professional ... and a hell of a nice guy honestly. He always has a kind word and a smile and frankly helped me to dig a bit deeper with his inspirational words often.

I wish him well in the next part of his refereeing career.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ever wanted to know what it would be like ...

Ethan Steinman delighted after release of behind the scenes film with PRO

Ethan Steinman of Daltonic Films was the man responsible for the production of the recently-published behind the scenes film with PRO, and we've caught up with him to discuss the making of the short documentary.

In July, Ethan and his crew were at a training camp in Park City, Utah, before following Allen Chapman and his colleagues at Rio Tinto Stadium for Sporting Kansas City's match at Real Salt Lake in MLS. Referee Alan Kelly was also the focus of a gameday, when he took charge of Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers derby at CenturyLink Field. ... 

See the whole story and amazing video here, courtesy of PRO. 

Kicking Back Comments: This is as real as it gets folks ... well worth the 12 minutes.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dear FIFA Sponsors: Are You Listening Now???!!!

Five years of human rights failure shames FIFA and Qatar

Labor exploitation remains rampant in Qatar as the authorities fail to deliver significant reforms, Amnesty International said today before the fifth anniversary of Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Despite massive public exposure of the appalling conditions faced by most migrant construction workers, the Qatari authorities have done almost nothing effective to end chronic labor exploitation.

“Too little has been done to address rampant migrant labor abuse. Qatar’s persistent labor reform delays are a recipe for human rights disaster,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. ...

See the whole press release here, courtesy of Amnesty International.

Kicking Back Comments: Straight on the heels of the nonsense from the sponsors being "outraged" and wanting "assurances" we start to see not much has changed in Qatar. Companies like ADIDAS are (or feign) outrage if child labor stitches their balls ... yet are fine as migrant workers die to build the stadiums they will profit from in 2022. I fail to see the difference.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Fifa sponsors including Coca-Cola demand reform overview

Five sponsors of football's world governing body Fifa have written to its executive committee to demand "independent oversight" of reforms.

Fifa has been engulfed by allegations of corruption since US authorities indicted 14 officials this summer.

The letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Visa and the Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: I am again reminded of one of my personal mantras, facta non verba, or deeds not words.

So far all we have seen from FIFA, which I expect at this point, is words. By now I would have expected more from the sponsors, even one. Clearly I was misguided in my thinking as sponsors like Coca-Cola are clearly apathetic to what FIFA is doing in places like Qatar, to name one.

It is truly all about the money folks and even the one entity (aside from UEFA) that can make a big impact on the World's Game, clearly wants none of it.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Scott Sterling or Sterling Archer?

I have recently come across "Scott Sterling" as he is a particularly useful character to describe a point of emphasis for US Soccer in 2016, Potential Serious Injury (PSI). While the video is intended to do so in a light hearted way (and is morbidly humorous), the message is deadly serious.

... and we have Archer, who I also very much enjoy, whose message is anything but serious.

Just a little fun to start the holiday season off right.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thank You Readers of Kicking Back

Image Credit:
Friends and Readers of Kicking Back,

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your readership over these last five(!) years.

Without you, Kicking Back would have remained little more than a unnourished thought. Thank you for turning it into so much more.

As we begin the holiday season, please take a moment to reflect on the thinks that you are thankful for and pay it forward.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And the winner is ...

Alan Kelly named MLS Referee of the Year; Corey Parker voted Assistant Referee of the Year

Major League Soccer announced on Monday that Alan Kelly has been selected the 2015 MLS Referee of the Year, while Corey Parker has been named Assistant Referee of the Year.

Kelly, in his second season as an MLS referee, was the center official for 21 MLS regular season matches in 2015, which was second most among PRO referees. He brought an impressive resumé to his current position: A native of Ireland, Kelly moved through the ranks in his home country, notably winning the inaugural Players’ Football Association of Ireland’s Referee of the Year Award in 2006 (and four subsequent ones). He eventually served as a UEFA official, where he was a referee for Champions League and World Cup qualifiers, among other competitions. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLS.

Kicking Back Comments: Congratulations to Alan and Corey, it is an honor well deserved.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What is your safety plan?

Stade de France referee had 'no idea' what was happening as attacks rocked Paris 

Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz spoke of the ‘troubling, tough’ time in Paris after he blew the final whistle at the Stade de France.

‘We had no idea about what was going on until after the game had ended,’ the Spanish official, 38, told AS when reflecting on events unfolding around Friday’s game between France and Germany.

‘We have all been through some very difficult moments, moments of great uncertainty because, at first, we were told that we were not allowed to leave the stadium, but now things are a little calmer. This is a very troubling, tough moment and I don’t really feel like speaking right now. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Mail Online.

Kicking Back Comments: Working big stadiums people sometimes think that everything is "taken care of." Nothing can be further from the truth in some cases. There have been situations where the refereeing team needed to be evacuated from a venue in a hurry at the old Foxboro Stadium, and the security manager for the venue (who worked NFL games) was clearly an expert. He had a plan and we were out and escorted by State Police in less than 5 minuets ... and escorted to the highway in 15 minutes.

There have also been venues where I have asked about the safety of the refereeing team and was met with a summer intern and a blank stare. Yes, this was at a professional match as well.

Ultimately the safety of the refereeing team is up to the refereeing team. While many venues may have a comprehensive plan in place, no one can know about all scenarios.

A regular instruction for my teams was if something went really bad, like a riot with a field invasion, lose your refereeing shirt, roll down your socks, start cheering with whoever is yelling the most, and meet at location X.

You may laugh ... I used it once.

Do you have a plan next time out?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Alright FIFA ... WTF are you doing about this one?

Turkish soccer fans chant "Allahu Akbar" during Paris attacks remembrance

Turkey and Greece, neighbors that have been often vicious geopolitical rivals for centuries, have attempted in recent years to reconcile their differences, a move that's been given heightened importance during the growing migrant crisis.

Their soccer teams hadn't played each other in eight years, so Tuesday's friendly match in Istanbul presented an opportunity for a power symbolic display of peace and reconciliation. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of CBS News.

Kicking Back Comments: Here is another opportunity for FIFA to show some leadership. Can we go beyond signs of support (which have their place) and move to actions in the face of such behavior?

FIFA is rightly willing to shutter stadiums for activities they determine racist. How oh how can this be condoned?

FIFA ... grow a set and take some action. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So Much For "Friendly"

Germany cancels soccer match, citing bomb threat

PARIS — Europe faced a new terror threat Tuesday, four days after devastating Islamic State attacks in Paris, when German officials evacuated a soccer stadium over an apparent plan to set off a powerful bomb.

Authorities in Hanover, Germany, abruptly called off a friendly soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands that Chancellor Angela Merkel had planned to attend to show resolve against terrorism and support for the victims of the Nov. 13 attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris. One target of Friday’s attacks was a crowded soccer match at a stadium north of Paris. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: I hate to say that this may be the norm for a while in Europe ... and only a matter of time before it transitions to here in the US.

If you are a referee working such a match ... what is your exfil plan? What is the plan for the teams?
Know before the first whistle as if something happens like it did in France, things will come unglued quickly.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What type of referee are you?

Many times in my playing, refereeing, and assessor career, I have experienced and witnessed several types of referees with very varied motivations. To put these types into groups at times has been hard, but further reflection from my "super nerdy" youth (as opposed to my "hyper nerdy" professional life) allowed me to use my formally epic Dungeons and Dragons skills to describe these character traits within (9) groups. These represent "character alignments" that one may find in life, or for those like me who spent time avoiding life, playing D&D.

A nice synopsis can be found at this link, where I also found the chart below.

Honestly I have seen incarnates or at least shades of each (some stronger than others) in real live referees around the world. It put me down the path of wondering what type of referee I was ...

While I came up with an answer, it took some real soul searching to really determine.

So I ask, what type of referee are you?

Have you ever done anything against that characteristic (and be honest)?

Are you that way inside the field as well as outside?

As you start to understand a person's motivations, you can start to understand the person a bit better. I would opine players fall into this category too ... and I personally can fill in players from my experience in every single box.

Next time out ... what do you see ... and how does that align with your own character?
Are there management techniques to be had for each personality type, motivations to understand?

Image Credit: The Nickel Screen

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Silent Killer

Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter Recovering in Hospital From 'Body Breakdown'

Outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter is recovering this week after being hospitalized in Switzerland for what has been called a stress-related "body breakdown" and a "small emotional breakdown" in several media reports.

The embattled Blatter, 79, was provisionally suspended last month from his post amid the ongoing corruption scandal involving FIFA, the world's governing body of soccer. He is expected to make a full recovery and be released from the hospital early next week, according to the BBC. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Newsweek.

Kicking Back Comments: Frankly I am surprised it took this long as the amount of strain he must be under I have to believe is nothing short of suffocating.

I for one hope he makes a full and complete recovery ... and never comes near FIFA again.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Know Nuzzing ...

U.S. Soccer boss Sunil Gulati addresses range of issues

A few hours before the U.S. World Cup qualifying opener in St. Louis on Friday, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati met with a group of reporters to discuss Jurgen Klinsmann, the national team, the broader program, FIFA and other matters, including everyone’s favorite, promotion and relegation.

Excerpts …

See the full article here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: This was a very interesting article and it spoke on quite a few topics. One thing that did catch my attention was that President Gulati was kept from Congress and was very careful about his answers regarding FIFA and others caught in corruption issues. Almost too careful.

I hope truly he does not find himself in those crosshairs.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Upgrade Kudos

Congratulations to the following Massachusetts referees for their significant accomplishments to upgrade! May their success continue well into the future.

Jeff Alcoforado, Ayer, Grade 6

Risto Gjeorgiev, Dorchester, Grade 7

Eversley Teddy Linley, Roxbury, Grade 7

Casey Frankfort, Framingham, Grade 7

Thursday, November 12, 2015

US Soccer Showing Potential Implementation of Concussion Settlement Terms

Photo Courtesy of The Boston Globe

I did have to laugh a little bit in looking back at this picture and article from my post in July. For any offended by my not taking the topic seriously enough, please note the sarcasm tag is now turned off.

Concussions are serious things and I do take them seriously. What is being proposed beyond regular education and evaluation however, in my opinion is a reaction to a lawsuit, not a solution.

I continue to find it interesting how folks are reacting to this too, even comments on the US Soccer web site with the press release are largely truly negative.

This is a serious topic that needs a serious answer, unfortunately the answer provided in the settlement would on the surface not seem to fully address the practical enforcability or acknowledge some of the actual science behind such injury and its occurrence rates for soccer players.

Stand by to see how US Soccer will attempt to enforce same.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You Veterans

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No more headers in soccer ... and guess who will have to judge

Court settlement proposes heading ban in bid to curtail youth concussions

In a settlement announced on Monday by Hagens Berman, a law firm that represented youth players in a class action lawsuit against six the largest youth soccer groups, U.S. players who are aged 10 and under will no longer be able to head the ball, while players aged 11 through 13 will be restricted by a length of practice with headers and number of total headers allowed per player per week.

The settlement also, for the first time, mandates a standard protocol to follow when a player is found to have sustained a concussion. ...

See the whole article here from ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: You can see the genesis of the suit from an article here. There are elements of the settlement that I think have great merit, such as allowing a temporary substitution to allow for concussion evaluation and having a standard procedure for evaluating same. All good stuff.

Limiting headers, frankly is crap, and untenable to patrol. While this settlement occurred just Monday the 9th, the practical effects are really yet to be felt by referees across the US ... I am sure that was not even a thought in US Soccer's head however. Enforcement ... we'll figure that out later.

As an organization we are having issues getting young referees to determine and stop play when a player uses their hands in U10 matches ... never mind finding a referee to even do those games these days. But sure, throw that log on the fire of no head balls ... I can hear it now ... "SHE HEADED IT ... THAT'S A FOUL" ...

OMG I am going to lose my mind watching these matches next year.

What I found somewhat laughable and ironic about all of this at the high level I have examined it so far is the lead attorney in the suit, Steve W. Berman, was paid his handsome fees by US Soccer to the tune of $590,000 when none of this was supposed to be about money, but about safety. (What ever happened to pro bono work?) Something Steve I would think should care about as per his bio he himself is a "certified soccer referee."

I'll wait to see what the full settlement holds and how US Soccer plans to ask its youngest and least experienced group of referees to implement these very nuanced changes to the LOTG and effect the very fabric of how The Game is played today.

Until then, stay tuned as the comments surrounding this change are generally not positive ones.

Update 18:00 EST ... oh look, here is one from SI:

Michael A. Shealy · 
So as a referee do we red card the youth that head the ball now. Here come another LOTG #18.
Like · Reply · 2 · 10 hrs

Jj Garcia
Thats my concern about this and I'm not even a ref. How is this going to managed in games when sometimes heading the ball is an instinctual move to get the ball clear or control it. Who to say that coaches of rec level or higher are going to be actually counting with a counter or something of that sorts. I cant see how this can be monitored in practices with all the teams that are out there.
Like · Reply · 6 hrs
Mike Naka
Jj Garcia Gotta love the USA and the sue everything culture...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

More @NFL Punishment Buffoonery

Many may think given my (gridiron) football affiliations I would be speaking of the truly preposterous decision of the NFL to actually go forward with its appeal of the deflategate case with the filing of the appellate brief in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Actually I was shocked (shocked I tell you) to learn the NFL has hired Paul Clement to argue the matter. News flash to the Brady camp ... this barrister is no joke and has argued before SCOTUS more than anyone else on earth right now. He argued such cases as ObamaCare and DOMA to name others ... and is likely going to wind up on the very bench he often argues before depending which was the Presidential election goes in 2016, and the health of one Justice Ginsberg. The Brady camp would be wise to hire some higher power staff on their side to match.

But alas, I am not talking about that particular brand of NFL buffoonery, it is the type where the NFL continues to fine players for their "uniform violations" which support good causes. While I wrote about DeAngelo Williams the other day, today it is William Gay and his fine of $5787 for wearing purple cleats to support his mother who was killed in an act of domestic violence.

Oh look, here is a handy list of NFL players who have been arrested for domestic violence in the last couple of years from SI. Yes indeed, we certainly don't want any NFL player to make a positive statement about domestic violence since the league is doing such a good job disciplining its players for it.

Just as a casual reminder regarding the rageaholic Cowboy, Greg Hardy and what he was found guilty of (from SI):

On May 13, Hardy was arrested for communicating threats and assault against his then-girlfriend. Hardy reportedly threw the woman into a bathroom, then dragged her into the bedroom, choked her, picked her up again, and threw her on a couch covered in firearms. He also reportedly threatened to shoot her if she told anyone about the fight.

You want to do something constructive NFL? While you have the cancer scam going in October ... why don't you continue in November with "Stop Domestic Violence" and give everyone purple cleats, gloves, and towels. $h!t you can even make some money on it, like you do the cancer promotion. For the love of all things holy though, stop protecting these thugs, and let players like Gay who have been touched by this crime wear something purple.

To do otherwise continues to deepen the turmoil the NFL finds itself in with regard to player conduct and the absurd punishments it hands out ... which (spoiler alert) will be further degraded by the decision in the 2nd Circuit.

Please oh please let deflategate go to SCOTUS when the NFL gets crushed there ... and please let Justice Scalia write for the majority. #lawgeek

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

End of an era

Abby Wambach announces her retirement from soccer

It’s official: Abby Wambach is retiring.

Soccer’s international leading scorer and one of the greatest players of all time finally made the announcement Tuesday afternoon following the U.S. women's team's visit with President Obama to celebrate the summer's Women's World Cup victory.

During the visit, USA TODAY Sports asked Wambach about her future, and the 35-year-old seemed non-committal.

“I’ve given a lot of thought to it and that’s a good question,” Wambach said. “I think in the coming days, weeks, months, I’ll let you guys know.”

She walked away joking that it could be mere hours before a decision was made. Not long after, Wambach dropped the bombshell. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: Abby represented herself, her team, and her country well. The Game will miss her. I can only Hope we see some other retirements soon that are long over due.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It was all going so well ... until the riot

Cedarville Meant No Harm, Parents Say After Arrest

CEDARVILLE -- The clash that ended with the arrest of their head football coach for inciting a riot started when his team lined up to shake the other team's hands, said Cedarville parents interviewed Friday.

Those parents were interviewed at the best spot in town to draw a large crowd -- a home football game for Cedarville High School. Friday, their team hosted Marshall.

Parents and players were in Elkins a week earlier. When they left -- their buses escorted by sheriff's deputies -- they knew the game had ended in a ruckus, the parents said. But they thought the incident was over. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Arkansas Online.

Kicking Back Comments: Take a look at the story, while full of opinion, there are a couple of things that stood out to me ... one very practical thing too.

I had to laugh out loud when I read the following from the article:

"The first sign of any trouble in Elkins was a mid-field incident while the game had less than a minute left to play."

Sorry, but I just don't buy that and while this may have been a sign for sure, I doubt it was the first. As referees we have to obtain a "baseline" of behavior fairly quickly regarding the contest we are refereeing. Intelligence professionals sometimes refer to a "baseline" as the regular happenings in a particular environment. It is when we start to witness excursions from this baseline we should take note.

Sounds cloak and dagger and honestly it sort of is as a substantial part of refereeing is reading people of all types and being able to take necessary action on issues that arise. Take the above as an example. What were the clues that could have indicated something was going to happen? Ask yourself:

Was this a significant match for some reason? 
If yes, what was the reason?

Were any of the participants in a "funk" and this includes the coaches (one of which who was later arrested)?
What is your plan to deal with that?

Even before the match started, what was your "mass confrontation" plan?
Meet as a group and take notes?
Actively try to separate players?

If things go really bad, what is the exfil plan?
Run like heck to the car?
Defend each other?
Call the police?

While this later part may be rare, it is good to think about as frankly when it goes wrong, you don't want to have to think too much, just react and follow a plan you have already previously considered.

Now for the practical tip ... if it's safe, take notes. Here we had a coach who crossed the field to engage the other teams players and as the report goes with racial epithets. This coach was subsequently arrested for his conduct and is up for his court date and possible dismissal from the school he works for. As a referee if we have witnessed something, we need to report it. Our duty to the players does not end until we have left the field and frankly any willful blindness to something like this is shirking one of our most important duties ... to protect the players.

Think about this too, the final act did not play out until the players lined up to say "good game." If you get a whiff that something bad is going to happen, why even have them shake hands? Yeah it's a nice tradition, but when trouble will follow, why do it?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Say it isn't so

Beckenbauer Is Under Investigation by FIFA Ethics Committee

Former German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer is one of 11 current or former high-ranking FIFA officials under investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee, the organization said in a statement on Wednesday.

His case has been passed on to the adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee, which has the power to ban him from all soccer-related activities. The committee didn’t give a reason for the investigation, but Beckenbauer has been involved in the awarding of at least three World Cups, processes that have drawn intense scrutiny for years. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the WSJ.

Kicking Back Comments: I suppose I should not be surprised, sadly. All these once great institutions and men to me once ... FIFA, IOC, and their boards. All once great seemingly serving the thing we love ...  all now proving to be shams.

So sad.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Monkeys (and men) with small testicles howl loudest

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
For any who think this is a joke (at least the monkeys part), please take a look here from The American Bazaar. There is a real honest to goodness research paper on the topic as well. Yes, the "and men" comment was mine.

For me there is a clear analogy to real life as I am sure we have all met and dealt with people who howl, whine, and frankly bully others to get their way. I am in fact dealing with one such individual right now and it is really draining, even having already seen through the ruse to what the end game is about.

So too is true in refereeing. Now we may have dealt with players that are loud and unsavory, but my comments are not about them, they are about us as referees.

I shared the other day the referee who was overseeing Jr.'s match and after a foul, when he was asked about the decision, out came the reply "... because I said so." There dear friends is a howler monkey with small testicles.

"Words can wound" is an oft used expression that I personally think is overly dramatic in some situations, a refereeing context being one of them. What words can do however is paint a pretty accurate picture of the mental state of a referee.

Take the example from Jr.'s match. If the referee had simply said, "I saw a push" or "I thought it was a handball" even if dead wrong about the decision it will at least have the player left to feel like "... well he saw something." By slamming the door shut however with his "... because I said so." answer, the players at that point lost all respect, and even continued to ask knowing it would bother the referee further.

Keith Hackett, FIFA referee, and an all round talented guy, penned a great article from his series, "You Are The Ref," titled "The Importance of Presence as a Referee." In the article he talks about things like voice control, posture, empathy, and my personal favorite "sparkle." All of which are critical not just in the big parks around the world, but even more so in the little ones.

Don't be a monkey with small balls and scream because you can. Be the leader inside the field and when (not if) you get challenged, treat the players with the respect you would want to get. You may be surprised to find after such an exchange, they will be more willing to give that respect back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Get Serious, Or Go Home

As many of you regular readers know I have a high school age soccer player in the house named (for purposes here) "Jr." He is what I would call a serious soccer player in so far as he has committed to training for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week and there is a match or two in there as well. On at least one of his off days, he also referees youth matches.

Over the last month or so I have enjoyed watching his matches both that he plays in and that he referees. Many times we chat on the way to the pitch before he does referee and we talk about how he feels or what his goal is for the particular day.

Last weekend our conversation turned very frank in that he was really frustrated. As I probed the feelings a bit more, the main source of his frustration was how serious he takes playing and refereeing, only to have many of the referees who come out to his match, not take it seriously at all.

He was right.

In one match I saw a referee miss a goal line decision because he was standing in the midfield circle and essentially wore a path from one side of the circle to the other. In another match I witnessed the referee asking parents on a touchline for help ... truly asking for help with a decision. What recently took the cake for me was a referee when asked about a decision, stated his reasoning as "... because I said so."

This was when I turned to "Madame X", my ever patient wife, and asked out loud if she would mind if I got dismissed as a spectator from a match. I did not get an answer.

Trust me I get that there is a lack of good referees for all high schools at all levels and theoretically the best referees are doing the best matches (cough), but for the love of the game you have to at least try. Just try.

These kids are spending hundreds of hours in a season practicing and playing, and for a referee to not even try is pathetic. I'm not even saying to get it right all the time, or even most of the time, just make the effort. I'm not even sure if these folks even know how bad they truly are.

So what to do? Share with the league how terrible these referees are? Try to work one on one with them to get them to "step up?" Implement a system like in US Colleges where the coaches in essence choose who they want to referee their matches?

I dunno, but to allow such baboonery on a regular basis is criminal for the kids who are working hard to earn their playing time.

Next time you go out to do a match that you think will not be challenging ... challenge yourself to be "spotless." Perfect mechanics, perfect decorum, perfect decisions. In a sense practice "virtuosity" where some would call it the skill of performing the common, uncommonly well.

Above all, try your best, and if you can't do that, do us all a favor and just stay home.

Friday, October 16, 2015

When dissent ... isin't

Let's take a closer look at Jose Bautista's epic bat flip

Jose Bautista is often known as Joey Bats. Now people are calling him "Joey Bat Flip," after his epic celebration capped a monstrous three-run home run in the seventh inning of Wednesday's deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

With the hit, Bautista helped send the Blue Jays to the American League Championship Series. With the flip, Bautista created an image that rivals Joe Carter's 1993 World Series-winning blast. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: As referees we need to let players emote. Just as players need to let referees emote too and not think that we are all robots. Take a look here at an interesting article about referee communication ... some of which you have seen here at Kicking Back before.

If we take a look at Bautista's reaction, it is completely understandable in context. Big game, big hit. If instead he flipped his bat in the 1st inning if he crushed one over the wall, then a different reaction from the umpire would be necessary involving a dressing down I would imagine.

As referees we need to keep the contest in context to best determine a course of action. Is this a big game? Is this a big game for the particular player for some reason? (1st match back after a long injury? Last match before retirement?)

We need to allow such a player some latitude in expressing their emotions about the situation. If we don't, well, frankly we are robbing the fun out of the sport for them and that is not why we are here.

Consider the opposite number, Dyson in this case, the pitcher who just got lit up for a 3 run homer. He's upset as it is for giving up those runs in such a critical scenario, now add to that a gleeful Bautista and we have an issue. #10 from the Blue Jays did not help by hanging around and egging the crowd on which of course lead to the benches clearing.

In the same way we allowed Bautista to emote, we should allow Dyson to as well. The real magic is now not letting that brushfire spread wildly between the teams. It can be very powerful to let a player, or players have their say with each other and come in as a referee and say, "OK, are we done now?"

Like anything else, it is a fine line and a balancing act to be sure. We may even need to take a barb or two as referees in the process. I would opine however, it is a small price to pay to let some of the air out of the tire to finish with 22.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Good Guy Award: @DeAngeloRB

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports
So many of us have been touched by the ravages of cancer either ourselves, or through family or friends. In this modern age, there is no concept of "six degrees of separation" regarding this awful disease.

DeAngelo Williams, who is currently playing as a running back for the Steelers, was recently told by the NFL he was not allowed to wear pink all year (courtesy USA today) to both honor his mother who he lost to the disease, but also as a reminder to women that it is critical to get tested as early detection is key to many such cancers.

Where I really start to appreciate Mr. Williams is his persistence in keeping his real goals of wearing pink, not the marketing campaign the NFL performs annually to bolster its image. Mr. Williams is steadfast in his belief and has gone so far as to dye his hair and paint his nails pink as well as provide funding for women to get screened out of his own pocket.

No so much for the NFL in the moth of October where their behavior is nothing short of a pink clad scam. I offer the following:

Take a look here from an article from Jezebel:
"Since the program's inception four years ago, the NFL has raised $3 million for breast cancer. In 2009, the League made $8.5 billion. Last year, they made $9.5 billion. Commissioner Roger Goodell has set a revenue goal of $25 billion per year by the year 2027. A million per year out of between $8.5 and $9.5 billion in revenues? Pardon me while I don't slobber all over the NFL's pink-drenched marketing campaign."

Okay, that is one opinion ... here are a few others:

"In fact, the NFL's claim of 100 percent proceeds from auction and 100 percent proceeds from retail has translated to an average of just $1.1 million every year since they partnered with ACS six years ago. That's less than .01 percent of the approximately $10 billion the league made in revenue last year. And almost five times less than what ACS' other partners, such as Walgreens, manage to donate to the same program—a program that, again, gives zero dollars to cancer research."

"Approximately 8 percent of sales from pink NFL merchandise go toward cancer research, according to a report this week from Business Insider."

... and my personal favorite from Business Insider, "Is The NFL Profiting Off Of Breast Cancer?"

So from all of these it seems fairly clear that the NFL is actually profiting from the disease and while I thought my view of them could not get any dimmer, it just did.

Listen, I get why the NFL can't support having players wearing what they want all the time, it would descend an already morally challenged league into visual chaos. There are uniform standards to uphold and sponsors pay big money for their stuff to be seen. I understand.

All credit to Mr. Williams however in appropriately thumbing his nose at the NFL with changing his hair color to honor his mom and also staying within the "uniform standards." Where the NFL just pays lip service to a devastating disease and is indeed making a few bucks in the process, Mr. Williams to me gets a good guy award for letting his actions speak louder than any words the NFL propaganda machine is spouting.