Football is my passion, it has been ever since I started playing it from a very young age. And when I say football, I do not mean American Football, no I mean soccer, which I will keep referring to as football. I am also a lifelong Arsenal and Ajax Amsterdam fan. But one thing I never imagined was ending up as a referee, and enjoying it!
Throughout my youth I played as a central defender, being tall and lanky and as I got older moved up to midfield and eventually a striker, even ending my last season as league topscorer with 23 goals and league champion. That was at 17 years old, since then the decline set in. (who loves the pie!)
I went from being tall and lanky to being tall and broad, to tall and overweight. All those years studying and partying were detrimental to my body let’s just say. I started lifting weights and although I am still overweight, I at least do not look like the Michelin man running across the pitch. As I am getting married in October I decided to try and drastically change my diet and eating habits and get proper fit and ready for next season and the wedding. Damn you carbohydrates, sugars and McDonalds! I’m loving it!
You And Refereeing?
So after studying and then getting used to 9-5 working life I wanted to be involved with football again, but I knew I was not going to cut it as a player anymore especially with my injury record. So I came up with the idea of becoming a referee. Nuts right? That’s what everybody around me still says to this day. As I live in The Hague (Holland) which has tons of football clubs it didnt seem so hard to find one that would like another referee at their club. I managed to find a quality amateur club in the city called SVV Scheveningen who’s first team play second division on the highest amateur level and were desperate to add another referee to their ranks.
Very quickly I found my feet and started refereeing the youth varying from 12 year old boys and girls to adults. The club was nice enough to pay for my official refereeing license with the Dutch Football Association and as such since a year I am an officially licensed referee at club level. And I say club level because I do not go around traveling to other clubs to referee matches, I only referee all the matches at my own club, just like 6 others in our refereeing squad. I love the banter and community feeling the club provides.
Apologies for the long introduction but there I was, 6ft4, 255 pounds brick shithouse running across the pitch on a saturday, unpaid, yes for fun.
Funnily enough my expression, build and authority started creating a bit of a name and I pride myself nowadays on being a no-nonsense referee who does not like being spoken to too much by players.
Supporting Parents (ahum)
Which brings me to the other element which is not on the pitch but around the pitch, the parents. Listen, I may not have children yet, but as a referee I do have some sort of an educative almost parenting role let alone responsibility. Especially when you are dealing with young teenagers. Educating them on the game of football but also about respect and social skills.
But the fact that I do not have children yet and hence might not know how to act around children does not give a lot of you parents the right to act like disrespectful mindless bastards! Let me tell you what happened.
A few weeks ago I was refereeing a game with 14 year olds, the match went calmly and fair, until one player accidentally got hit in the face by a trailing arm and I have to say he barely touched him (no damage was done except to his ego). That was not even the big issue, that came shortly after when the father, of the boy who was hit by the arm, came running on to the pitch and wanted to punch/attack the other boy! The father angrily suggested that the other boy punched his son on purpose and that I (as referee) did not see this. Hence after I almost wrestle the man away from the kid and send him off the pitch, his son then starts retaliating to the boy who supposedly hit him by grabbing him by the throat, upon which I sent both players off the pitch for 10 minutes with a yellow card. (yes in the youth this is a rule) Once the supposed victim saw the yellow card, his mother then started swearing at me in the kind of way that would make Gordon Ramsay seem cute and innocent.
It baffles me to this day, that parents can lose it completely and even attempt to hurt a minor all over a simple amateur football match.
As you can imagine this was not the end of it and at the end of the match not one single player of the home team or the coaches shook my hand and hence I left the pitch with my head held high putting the imaginary middle finger up to them. I knew I had just refereed the match in proper and professional manner, but for the rest of the weekend it does leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. The club afterwards punished the coach and let’s just say it was not the first time this guy was causing havoc on a football pitch.
And remember kids, parents, whoever, the referee is doing it for fun and voluntarily and is not out to screw you or your kids. Have some respect and be a better role model for your kids!
For this column called ‘Red Carded’ I have created a rating of severity from 1 to 5 in the shape of a red card giving ex-referee Pierluigi Collina. For this week’s aggressive father I give four Collina’s: