Soccer….Family Style


Referee Controversy
June 10, 2010, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

When I heard about the baseball refereeing controversy last week (a referee made a questionable call and cost someone a perfect game) it reminded me of the scope of referee impact. Disclaimer: I’ve been a soccer referee since 1993, climbing as high as State Referee and NISOA college refereeing, and I’m married to a former US Soccer National Referee. So we are a pro referee household. My default position is that you have to play the game, with the referees included. When the US was eliminated by Germany in 2002 and there was a questionable handball, as a fan, I was upset, but realistically, you have to play through all those things to win.

In 1998, my husband and I were staying in a small French town visiting a friend when the American referee, Esse Baharmast, did his game, Brazil vs. Norway. My friend arranged for us to watch the game at her friend’s house, where they had cable.  We hardly spoke any French, but we were able to communicate that we were interested in the game because the referee was American.

We enjoyed watching the game with them until Esse called a late in the game penalty against Brazil, that looked from all angles highly questionable. At the time, Doug and I were both refereeing at high levels and both seeking advancement, so Esse Baharmest was a hero to us. I’d met him at youth tournaments and liked him. I couldn’t believe he would blow such a big call, but all televised camera angles looked awful.

Not only that, but that penalty was scored, and that changed the group outcome from Morocco advancing to the next game to them being eliminated. Now here’s where it’s important to really be smart about soccer while at the World Cup. Why would we have reason to be concerned sitting in a small town French living room watching the outcome of Brazil vs. Norway, impacting Morocco’s advancement? Because the Moroccan coach is French, and you better believe the French immediately put it together that our referee had just eliminated their coach. It was several extraordinarily uncomfortable moments before we could leave at the end of the game.

So lesson #1, pay attention to who’s on what team and who it’s impacting, so at least you’re aware as you wander into hostile territory. Lesson #2 is you have to play with the referees you’re dealt, and generally, they do a highly professional game. The next day, a smaller news organization came out with a previously unseen camera angle that showed that Esse had made the correct call. It was too late to keep him in the tournament and too late to alieviate the international tensions where we watched the game, but in the end, he did get it right.

Lesson #2: You have to play with the referees you’re dealt. It sometimes sucks, but if you can’t win with the referee you draw, that it may be a cheap loss, but it counts just the same as a fair loss.

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