January 29, 2014

Who the hell needs a Yellow Card?!

Well, we often talked about managing a match instead of just executing the Laws of the Game and sorting out some cards. One facet of a good match feeling and personality is the efficient usage of verbal warnings targeted at making sure the players are understanding your line and its limits. 

Carlos Maglio, an Argentine referee, has found his own way to do so: Just forget about the yellow card and only keep the red card in your pocket...no comment.

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January 28, 2014

UEFA's Referee Winter Seminar in Lisbon

Lisbon will be the destination of several European top-class match officials who take part in UEFA's traditional winter referee seminar. Parts of the referee committee and 127 UEFA referees are going to attend Portugal's capital from 2 to 6 February.

At the seminar, UEFA normally conducts focused training with their referees in terms of fitness, laws of the game and issues that are on the agenda of urgent or current topics such as dogso cases, free-kick management and penalty area incidents. The speeches will be held by Hugh Dallas, Vlado Sajn and, in the case of female football, by Dagmar Damkova and Bo Karlsson. The pool of referees will furthermore receive instructions and a greeting speech by UEFA's head of refereeing Pierluigi Collina. Werner Helsen will, as usual, be the responsible man for fitness guidelines, while Spaniard Emilio García will deal with the topic of match-fixing. Moreover, a special facet of the seminar are accurate fitness-, body weight- and body fat tests to be done on Wednesday morning. Again, there is no special assistance for UEFA's top referees in the area of personality and soft skills.
The officials are splitted in two seminar blocks. The advanced course (3-6 Feb.) consists of experienced top-class referees mostly belonging to Elite Group and First Group, partly regardless whether they are male or female, while the introductory course (2-6 Feb.) means the international start for those 44 officials who have made their FIFA bow in January 2014.

These referees participate in the seminars:

Advanced Course:
Martin Atkinson (ENG), Olegário Benquerenca (POR), Felix Brych (GER), Cüneyt Cakir (TUR), Mark Clattenburg (ENG), William Collum (SCO), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), David Fernández Borbalán (ESP), Viktor Kassai (HUN), Pavel Královec (CZE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Milorad Mažić (SRB), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Pedro Proenca (POR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Damir Skomina (SVN), Wolfgang Stark (GER), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Craig Thomson (SCO), Alberto Undiano (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP), Howard Webb (ENG)

Yevhen Aranovskyi (UKR), Firat Aydinus (TUR), Deniz Aytekin (GER), Luca Banti (ITA), Ivan Bebek (CRO), Serhiy Boiko (UKR), Ruddy Buquet (FRA), Sébastien Delferiere (BEL), Aleksei Eskov (RUS), Antony Gautier (FRA), Mattias Gestranius (FIN), Manuel Gräfe (GER), Serge Gumienny (BEL), Tom Hagen (NOR), Kenn Hansen (DEN), Ovidiu Hategan (ROU), Stefan Johannesson (SWE), Matej Jug (SVN), Sergei Karasev (RUS), Aleksei Kulbakov (BLR), Harald Lechner (AUT), Szymon Marciniak (POL), Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP), Paolo Mazzoleni (ITA), Steven McLean (SCO), Bas Nijhuis (NED), Michael Oliver (ENG), Daniele Orsato (ITA), Halis Özkahya (TUR), Anastassios Sidiropoulos (GRE), Artur Soares Dias (POR), Aleksandar Stavrev (MKD), Marijo Strahonja (CRO), Martin Strömbergsson (SWE), Alexandru Tudor (ROU), Clément Turpin (FRA), István Vad (HUN), Pol van Boekel (NED), Slavko Vinčič (SVN), Alon Yefet (ISR), Miroslav Zelinka (CZE), Felix Zwayer (GER)

Jana Adamková (CZE), Teodora Albon (ROU), Christine Baitinger (GER), Cristina Dorcioman (ROU), Gyöngy Gaál (HUN), Kirsi Heikkinen (FIN), Riem Hussein (GER), Katalin Kulcsár (HUN), Pernilla Larsson (SWE), Thalia Mitsi (GRE), Kateryna Monzul (UKR), Jenny Palmqvist (SWE), Morag Pirie (SCO), Silvia Tea Spinelli (ITA), Esther Staubli (SUI), Bibiana Steinhaus (GER), Carina Vitulano (ITA)

Introductory Course:
Zaven Hovhannisyan (ARM), Manuel Schüttengruber (AUT), Erik Lambrechts (BEL), Bart Vertenten (BEL), Edin Jakupovic (BIH), Tsvetan Krastev (BUL), Fran Jovic (CRO), Tihomir Pejin (CRO), Zbynek Proske (CZE), Jens Maae (DEN), Anders Poulsen (DEN), Jesús Gil Manzano (ESP), Alejandro José Hernández Hernández (ESP), Ville Nevalainen (FIN), Benoît Bastien (FRA), Benoît Millot (FRA), Bastian Dankert (GER), Tobias Stieler GER), Paul McLaughlin (IRL), Roy Reinshreiber (ISR), Marco Guida (ITA), Davide Massa (ITA), Alexandru Tean (MDA), Bartosz Frankowski (POL), Tomasz Musial (POL), Sergei Ivanov (RUS), Paul Robertson (SCO), Bojan Pandzic (SWE)

Julia-Stefanie Baier (AUT), Farida Lutfaliyeva (AZE), Lois Otte (BEL), Galiya Echeva (BUL), Ivana Martincic (CRO), Eliska Kralovec-Kramlova (CZE), Ifeoma Kulmala (FIN), Eleni Antoniou (GRE), Valentina Garoffolo (ITA), Justina Lavrenovaite (LTU), Viola Raudzina (LVA), Irena Velevackoska (MKD), Henrikke Nervik (NOR), Kseniya Goryacheva (RUS), Aleksandra Cesen (SVN), Liudmyla Telbukh (UKR)
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January 24, 2014

UEFA considers implementation of vanishing spray

The UEFA Executive Committee has decided to conduct a test trial of the so-called vanishing spray utilized by the referees to mark out free-kick and wall positions at the final tournament of 2014 UEFA Under-17 European Championship. Thus, Europe's football governing body apparently follows world federation FIFA that will deploy the spray at Brazil's World Cup 2014.

WC 2014 Referee Ben Williams marking the wall-distance

The tool, that is being availed in South American competitions for several years and that was first tested by FIFA at U-20 World Cup 2013, is supposed to support referees when controlling the correct wall-distance of 9.15m and defining the correct and stationary ball position during free-kicks close to the penalty area. The spray creates a white foam line which vanishes within one minute. Usually the spray is stored in a bottle placed at the referees' trousers.
The responsible men in the football associations touch on a very subtle issue in modern football once again by shifting focus on the wall-distance at free-kicks. Basically, the observation that plenty of attackers here and there steal some (centi-)metres in order to revamp the free-kick position is legitimate. In addition, it is widely known that several defenders are infringing the wall-distance of 9.15m. So at first glance, this tool appears to be a logical means to make the game better. 

However, there are several strong arguments against it. 
First, the game is not made better, but slower. It takes the referees some seconds to sort out the spray bottle, mark the foam lines and store the bottle away. Besides, it does not exclude the opportunity that some players will ignore these lines.
Second, a tool to prevent infringements with regard to the wall-distance and to stealing some metres has already been implemented in the last century and is commonly called "yellow card". 
Third, marking an optically visible line does not necessarily mean that the distance between the wall and the ball's position really is 9.15m. Furthermore, it still allows the possibility that the referees did not identify the correct position where the previous infringement leading to the set piece had occurred at all. If FIFA (and soon UEFA) were consistent, they would have to equip their match officials with a measuring tape and the sixth sense to ensure accuracy.
Fourth (and most important), it is a worrying signal if the responsible associations do not rely on their referees' ability to manage free-kick incidents including the correct ball position and wall distance with their personality. Referees, who savour authority being respected by the players, who are to able to communicate appropiately with the players and who have a general awareness for this sort of infractions, do not need a spray. Therefore, the implementation of the vanishing spray probably is one of those projects of some office sitters in Switzerland who feel the urge to immortalize themselves. At any rate, it is futile in my opinion.
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January 22, 2014

An example of Referee Recruitment: The Belgian RCM Project

Although most of the blog's readers surely agree that football refereeing is one of the most beautiful and challenging hobbies you can have, there are problems to find a sufficient number of up-and-coming referees insisting on the Laws of the Game in plenty of European countries that even count as "referee nations". Belgium has a project that could function as a role model for how national associations should approach this lack of referees by promoting respect for the men and women in black in order to encourage more youngsters to become servants of the game.

The RCM project targets at encouraging new referees to manage the game

Referees are crucial in our football. Without referees we cannot play football. It’s always been this way so nothing has changed about that. It’s a trend in our society that there is little respect for referees and authorities in general. We find it important that those people can shake the hand with players and leave the field satisfied. That is why we would like to enhance Respect for the men/women in black!
According to RCM we have three different groups of referees. The first group is made up of true generations of referees, where many family members like father and son are referees. The second group are people who have chosen to become a referee because they had too many problems with injuries as active players. The third group consist of people who don’t think about refereeing in the first place. This is the group that the RCM project wants to reach. We want to convince people, let them taste refereeing by whistling games in their own club. We call it Conviction!
The recruitment of referees is vital. But even if we have acquired these people, it is very important to keep them motivated and give them the stimulation needed to go on. Furthermore, we will have a referee ambassador. Together with the clubs and the help of another young referee we want to offer young referees support whenever needed. That's why we also have a contact form on your website. Doing so we aim at supporting the officials whenever they need our support. Thus, we guarantee a lot of Motivation for them.
The RCM project has been read by many referees from the Belgian first division. We have received very positive feedback, since the top-class referees absolutely shared our approach and point of view. We are convinced that the cooperation with referees from the highest divisions is vitally helpful to recruit referees and make them stronger to stay a referee for a long time. Sharing experiences and talk about their great hobby is very important for referees. With the help of 14 referees from the first division we opened a platform where young referees and people, who are interested in refereeing, are allowed to ask questions that will be answered by these referees. We hope that the RCM – project will stimulate a lot of people to become a referee in future.

The program is run by Sandra de Kerf, who is regularly blogging on "Hé Scheids!!". The RCM project (Respect, Conviction, Motivation) is furthermore accompanied by FIFA referee and mentor Serge Gumienny.

Are there similar projects in your country? How about referee recruitment in your country? Feel free to discuss it!
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January 19, 2014

Why Effective Communication Is The Key To Being A Successful Football Referee

The following text is a guest post written by Paul Spacey, former player, current referee and private coach as well as owner of a very insightful website you should definitely visit. As The Third Team is about to put more stress on psychology and prospering personality standards in modern football refereeing in future, this is an optimum start to approach this issue. 
It's not about what you say, but how you say it © mundodeportivo
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January 18, 2014

What "deliberately playing the ball" means

Last July, football's lawmakers of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) have approved an alteration of Law 11 dealing with offside. Several guidelines and exemplary videos were necessarily given to the national associations and referee panels in order to instruct referees and particularly assistant referees properly in a worldwide dimension. This blog tried to make the changes comprehensibly explained as well. But how did the officials put the new guidelines into praxis? In many situations, the new offside rule was well applied by the assistant referees at the highest level. But some mistakes were and are still being made, also on UEFA level, which shows that this topic demands continuous attention. The following two videos are again supposed to emphasize and internalize a specific form of the new offside rule.

Tarik Ongun taking a correct offside position © The Third Team

Offside means being closer to the goal-line than the second last defender (some other restrictions do not have to be mentioned in this specific analysis). Some criteria is needed to be checked when raising the flag for offside:

Interfering with... (old version)
- “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.
- “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movement or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.

Interfering with... (new version)
- “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.
- “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movement or challenging an opponent for the ball.

Gaining an advantage (old version)
- “Gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goal post or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.
Gaining an advantage (new version)
- “Gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball…
  • - That rebounds or is deflected to him off the goal post, crossbar or an opponent having been in an offside position.
  • - That rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent having been in an offside position.
  • - A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.

I am going to analyze a situation that occurred in the Champions League match between Olympique Marseille and SSC Napoli. Please go to video minute 28:15 if this automatically starting link does not work appropiately.

Because of the low quality of the video, you can find screenshots (first move in the rows and then in the columns) edited with different colors that will be used in the analysis here:

As you have hopefully seen in either the video or the screenshots, the blue team (Napoli) have started a very promising attack on Marseille's goal. A defensive player has made a long pass into the direction of two attackers (#9 and #14), who had been about to move apart from their defending opponents respectively. The attempt was stopped by an offside flag of assistant referee 1.

First question: Was one of the attackers or were even both of them in an offside position in the sense of being closer to the goal-line than the second last defender?
No. The first screenshot shows that both attackers #9 and especially #14 were in an onside position, while their team-mate touched the ball to pass it. The screenshots naturally withhold the high pace of the action. Some parts of a second after the pass had been executed, the attacker at the bottom of the screenshot (Higuaín) was closer to the goal-line than the second last defender. Our analysis could end here, as the flag was undoubtfully wrong. But in this case there would not be any added value..

Second question: Let's imagine that #9 had been slightly closer to the goal-line than the second last defender. #14 was obviously onside for almost a metre. Would the flag have been correct in this scenario?
Maybe. It depends on the interpretation of the referee and assistant referee. Even if #9 had been in an offside position, one would have had to gauge whether he was interfering with play or an opponent at all. The green marked attacker had been far away from getting the ball but then moved towards the bouncing ball. Having recognized that his team-mate #14 would have a better chance to get and process the ball and maybe even score a goal than himself, he stopped his run and did not interfere with play. Dries Mertens (#14) took the ball and would have appeared freely in front of the goalkeeper. #9 neither touched the ball nor was in an absolute playing distance. There was more than a metre between him and the ball. He did not challenge an opponent for the ball either. The only opportunity to justify an offside flag would be a clear obstruction of the opponents' line of vision. The goalkeeper was surely not influenced by #9, but maybe the defender (white jersey) who was closest to the two attackers. One can have different ideas about this matter, personally, I think that #9 did not interfere with any opponent despite his original movement towards the ball. But this alone is not enough for active offside any longer. So, with a better wait-and-see technique, the assistant referee could have recognized that #9 would not interfere with play, would not interfere with an opponent and did not gain an advantage from being in that position in the sense of Law 11. However, the most decisive circumstance is still to come now:

Third question: Was offside possible in this situation at all?
No. The defensive player surrounded by a red circle in the second screenshot had touched the ball before the attacker could receive it. The ball being touched by a defender during a pass does however not necessarily mean that offside is impossible. Only if the defender makes a deliberate save (commonly interpreted as blocking a shot on goal) or if the touch occurs unwittingly, i.e. if the ball reaches an attacker after a deflection from a defender, the offside rule is still effective. The attacker(s) receiving the ball from a deliberate save or deflection, while being closer to the goal-line than the second last defender, are to be deemed as punishable of "active" offside.
In the situation presented, this was however not the case. The assistant referees have to grasp the intention of the defender. The defender did not deflect the ball in this case. He actively moved towards the ball and carted out a foot in order to deliberately play the ball. This mere fact precludes offside, regardless whether the defender succeeds in clearing the ball by deliberately playing it or not. #9 and #14 could have been 10 metres closer to the goal-line than the second last defender, it would not have changed anything; due to the defender deliberately playing the ball, they would have been in a legal position.
At this point, it becomes obvious that the new offside rule really differs from the old rule, where the distinction between a deflection and a defender really playing the ball was not that much stressed. Turkish assistant referee Bahattin Duran got an onside position wrong, which is an acceptable and comprehensible mistake. The bigger area to think about and to worry about rather is that he furthermore failed to apply the new offside rule properly. Apparently, this rule requires more clarification at UEFA seminars and needs more internalization in the assistant referees' minds that were used to deem players as punishable of offside in different scenarios for quite a long time. In the concrete case, referee Cüneyt Çakır could have overruled his assistant referee by recognizing that the deliberate action of the defender excluded an offside flag. Thus, it is also a matter of teamwork to prepare better for such situations.

Renato Faverani perfectly interpreted the new rule © The Third Team

Please also check another situation where the new offside rule was perfectly applied by assistant referee Renato Faverani (maybe upon teamwork with Tagliavento) in the Champions League match between Schalke 04 and FC Basel (0:55 video minute):

In addition, there was an incident in the Italian Cup Round of 16 in Napoli, which can function as a paramount example of how the new offside rule works as well (the decision concerned the question of whether an attacker challenged an opponent for the ball or not):

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January 17, 2014

World Cup Refereeing Telegram - Team 33 is ready

Wednesday was the day. Massimo Busacca and his colleagues in FIFA's referee committee have defined the match officials who will take charge of the 64 matches in Brazil. Not only we but specially the 52 pre-selected World Cup referees have excitedly awaited that list for months - their hopes and dreams have partly come true, but have partly been disappointed as well - the mere sharpness of professional sports.

The nominations for the World Cup have surely aroused a mixed echo by meeting joy, approval, astonishment and maybe also disapproval. It is undoubtfully certain though that all officials are very good referees and assistant referees in their respective leagues and confederations, counting to the best of the best, as Busacca tends to repeat. For the Suisse, I have to express all my respect: I would not have liked to change with him and his colleagues. The choice has been tremendous difficult; the differences between the officials have been marginally thin. And like for every football coach, such a vital decision is the toughest and most far-reaching one to take, leaving at home some of his protégés. Inspite of my joy for the referees and assistant referees nominated, some things should be said after this selection though.

First of all, the number of referees is surely surprising. The previous news about 10+1 referee teams for UEFA and 6+1 teams for CONMEBOL have proven to be wrong. Or they were subject to a change at the meeting and because of the World Cup drawing made last December. The committee might have been confronted with political pressure from the minor confederations who maybe demanded five referees. Thus, AFC got 4+1 which reflects the great development in referee education in this zone and is a logical consequence after World Cup 2010. CAF and CONCACAF only got three main referee trios, but also two support duos. Actually nobody thought of the idea of "3+2" before. It is surely a tactically sensible decision taken by Busacca. While it satisfies the political necessities, it still mirrors the quality of refereeing in a decent manner. However, this also meant that UEFA and CONMEBOL got one place less than expected respectively (9+1 and 5+1). In UEFA's case, FIFA might have drawn this conclusion due to the drawing: in the group stage, there are only 19 matches where UEFA referees are possible without breaking the confederation neutrality rule. Appointing ten referees would have meant that not every official could have got two matches and, in case of nine referees with two matches and one referee with only one match, that referees from other confederations could not take charge of some of these 19 matches. With only nine UEFA referees, FIFA can be a bit more flexible.

As already mentioned, FIFA has appointed eight support duos mostly consisting of a pre-selected referee and his pre-selected AR1. Practically, this is sensible, too. These duos can travel to the matches and support the referee teams as fourth and fifth officials. Because of Brazil's size and climate conditions, it is very useful to have a big pool of standby officials who can do this job. The distances between the cities are partly very large, so that appointing referees, who are heading active trios, could be inefficient and leading to bad performances. The eight support duos could attend six matches in the group stage. 
There are only two problems. First, Busacca and co. have frequently emphasized that 52 referee teams were pre-selected and underwent all the seminars, tests and matches ahead the final tournament together. For example, Svein Moen, Kim Haglund and Frank Andås are forming a team for several years. While Moen and Haglund have been appointed, Andås has to stay at home - just because he is formally the AR2. For my taste, that's unfair. And second, FIFA made plenty of political moves in these support duos to be dealt with later.

Concerning the names, most of them were surely expected and deserve to be in Brazil. Specially in Asia, FIFA has in my opinion proven a good feeling and made sensible choices. 
In the CONCACAF zone, the biggest surprise certainly is that Mexican Roberto García has to stay at home. His performances at FIFA tournaments have shown that he is actually a good referee, maybe even the best Mexican referee. Nonetheless, his countryman Rodríguez received a World Cup call-up, probably due to his experience. Both officials had fitness problems in the past, so that cannot be the basic reason. García's assistant referees Camargo and Morín count to the best of North- and Central America, but have not been selected either. That's a loss of quality. I am happy for Roberto Moreno though whose good performances over many years have been finally rewarded. World Cup 2014 will finish his career, as he had already announced before the names was announced. Walter López' very likely benefitted from Carlos Batres, who was able to make some pressure in the committee. My feeling is that Batres could have formed a stronger CONCACAF team than he has done.
Personally, I believe that Noumandiez Doue's selection is very risky and de facto wrong. I hope he will disabuse me. 
The five South American referees were sensibly chosen as well. Néstor Pitana has been the safer Argentine candidate compared to Diego Abal. It is quite remarkable that Antonio Arias has to stay at home and that he did not profit from his countryman Carlos Alarcón who is one of the responsible officers in FIFA's committee. They splitted the support duo in a Peruvian part (Carrillo) and a Paraguayan part (Aquino) - of course a (geo-)political move and nothing else.
But now to Europe. The UEFA selection is clearly Pierluigi Collina's handwriting. Carlos Velasco Carballo has prevailed over Alberto Undiano Mallenco which reflects the trend within UEFA since Collina is heading the committee. Serbian Milorad Mažić has been nominated after his extremely positive development in UEFA, while his FIFA performances have not been great. After only six months in UEFA's Elite Group, he is a main referee. I have rarely seen such a high flyer. Surely, Collina has lobbied for him being impressed by the Serbian's performances. The referee teams who were subject to interferences by Collina (Thomson's, Skomina's, Kassai's) have not been appointed. It is also remarkable that France does not have a referee at the World Cup, which last happened in 1974 and is again a device of the poor development in French refereeing. At least here, there were no politics.
When reading the list, the biggest surprise was surely the absence of Viktor Kassai of Hungary. Having been very good at World Cup 2010 and having well performed in Champions League final 2011 as a very young referee, there was a certain decrease in his performances. He and specially his team-mates made way too many mistakes and are now paying for that. However, Kassai's current shape is actually quite good. FIFA stated: "The referees selected for the World Cup in Brazil have been chosen based especially on their personality and their quality in football understanding by being able to read the game and the teams’ tactical approaches towards each game." Well. Why has Kassai to stay at home then? It is actually unbelievable how UEFA and FIFA have managed to burn the probably most talented young European referee. He got too much too early and is now not receiving the needed trust in his abilities. Kassai at his best is miles better than several other officials who have been selected. At the end leaving him at home is of course justified if you argue with the performance principle based on the last months and on the circumstance that the entire team have to function properly, what the Hungarian team did not do. Therefore I can understand the decision, but am quite wistful knowing that with Kassai, a real match manager has got lost. Another approach might be that Eastern Europe was only able to send one referee to the World Cup, knowing that geopolitics still exist in FIFA officiating, even if Scandinavia having got two referees contradicts that a bit. As said in the prediction posts, Skomina stumbled over his play-off. But even in case of a good performance, I believe he would not have been selected - if the theory with regard to geopolitics is true, his chances against Kassai and Mažić were quite small. 

Politics still prevail over the performance principle, even if not everywhere. UEFA is maybe one exception with some limitations. But concentrating on CAF and CONCACAF, it becomes clear that politics have not been totally abandoned when selecting the referees and assistant referees. 
Néant Alioum did not manage to attend the World Cup as main referee. He is very young and can learn from his first World Cup experiences with regard to 2018. But his assistant referee 1, Evarist Menkouande, actually counts as the best African assistant referee. Therefore, based on performance principle and quality, he replaced Angesom Ogbamariam of Eritrea (a very good assistant, too) in Bakary Gassama's team. He could have also replaced the AR2, Felicien Kabanda, who was recently injured. But no, he replaced Ogbamariam. Knowing that Kabanda is from Rwanda and that former Rwandan World Cup assistant referee Celestin Ntagungira is in FIFA's referee committee, it should become clear why Kabanda stays in Gassama's team. Removing Menkouande from Alioum's side could have meant that Peter Edibi, Alioum's AR2, will complete the support duo headed by Alioum. But no. Neither Edibi, nor Ogbamariam do so. But Djibril Camara does. The young Senegalese is very talented and can look forward to further World Cups in 2018 etc. Since Badara Diatta has not been chosen, Camara would have had to stay at home. In the committee, Badara Sene from Senegal has also something to say. One does not have to see relations between some committee members and those moves on the list, if one does not want to. You can surely also argue that Edibi and Ogbamariam are quite old and would not have any prospect for 2018 so that their presence in the support duos would not have benefits in the future.
In Brazil, AR1 Alessandro Rocha De Matos was replaced for political reasons. Marcelo Van Gasse has been appointed instead. A hard decision for Rocha, who has mostly performed flawlessly and assisted in many FIFA matches.
Another example for politics is visible in one CONCACAF support duo. Roberto Moreno will be accompanied by assistant referee Eric Boria of the United States. Originally, Boria was pre-selected in Jair Marrufo's team along with Jamaican Ricardo Morgan. Moreno was accompanied by Daniel Williamson of Panama and Keytzel Corrales of Nicaragua. So why was Boria chosen and not one of them? ...

You see, this long awaited World Cup list of team 33 was created following a decision process that was surely hard to conduct for the committee and Busacca. Besides, it seems as if the performance principle had played a bigger role for the selection than in previous World Cups. But this cannot belie that politics have still existed.
We should keep the fingers crossed for good performances and a low ratio of mistakes, knowing that mistakes will be made. Personally I cannot wait until the 20th World Cup will commence!
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January 15, 2014

FIFA World Cup 2014 - Referees

Day X has come, the cubes have been thrown: These are the referee teams designated to officiate at 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. FIFA has appointed 25 main trios and 8 standby duos who will take control over the 64 matches. Sincere congratulations to the referees and assistant referees who have been appointed - "Chin up!" to those who have missed it.

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January 12, 2014

World Cup Referees - Predictions for Europe (Part 2)

While the first part of my predictions for the European World Cup referee list solely concentrated on those four nations that were each represented by two short-listed match officials, this text puts stress on the remaining eleven referee trios coming from different nations. Among them, there are surely some safe bets, but also plenty of shaky candidates who have to keep all their fingers crossed to be selected by Busacca and his colleagues. Therefore, this is the most difficult and most arduous analysis of all.

Björn Kuipers will very likely return to Rio de Janeiro

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World Cup Referees - Predictions for Oceania

The smallest of all confederations is OFC. From Fiji to Tuvalu via New Caledonia, you find quite exotic football nations that were participating in the qualifiers. As usual, New Zealand have made the run but failed to qualify in the intercontinental play-offs against Mexico. However, this confederation will be certainly represented in terms of refereeing.

Peter O'Leary and Norbert Hauata
Peter O'Leary is the clear no.1 of this zone and will definitely go to Brazil - there is no doubt about that. Politically, he is much stronger than his competitive from Tahiti called Norbert Hauata. Of course you cannot compare their officiating with other federations. The football played in this region is surely less organized, slower and therefore less professional. Both referees attended several FIFA tournaments in the past and have proven to be able to cope with the required standard to a certain extent. Some mistakes were made, but some good performances were also shown by both. The most exciting question however is whether FIFA will again appoint two referees from OFC (in 2010, Michael Hester handled a match as the main referee from New Zealand and O'Leary was only a standby official). Basically, I would like to see this again in Brazil. In the end, it is a World Cup and deserves participants from various regions of the world. I however could imagine that only O'Leary will be chosen so that Hauata has to stay at home. Everything is possible, the only sure thing is that O'Leary is to be considered above the Tahitian. 

Date of Birth
Assistant 1
Jan Hendrik HINTZ
Assistant 2
Ravinesh KUMAR

Norbert HAUATA
Assistant 1
Assistant 2
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January 10, 2014

World Cup Referees - Predictions for Europe - Part 1

Having already issued my predictions for the four major confederations environing UEFA, I would like to illuminate the situation among the pre-selected European World Cup referees and to examine their individual chances to make the dream of probably every referee become reality - being one of a bit more than 30 referees at the pending World Cup in Brazil.

Former colleagues, now boss and employee

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January 9, 2014

UEFA Referees asked to avert the Triple Punishment

The Third Team can confirm several reports issued by various newspapers reporting about a directive that is planned to be given to UEFA's top-class referees instructing them to avert the so-called triple punishment in future matches.

Sergei Karasev administering a "triple punishment" in UCL

According to the current version of the Laws of the Game, referees are forced to send players off with a direct red card as soon as they have denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, regardless of where the infringement occurred (referring to inside or outside the penalty area only). If the infringement happened in the penalty area, referees naturally have to award a penalty kick in favour of the team that were fouled. The penalty kick (and mostly the goal), the red card and consecutive suspensions are widely called triple punishment (for the team offending the infraction). Plenty of former players, football experts and specially football politicians have been considering this circumstance as too harsh. Their basic argument is that, by awarding the penalty kick, the obvious goal-scoring opportunity is recreated, so that a red card is not necessary any longer. Agreeable to this point of view, a yellow card should be issued against the offender. 
Specially UEFA president Michel Platini is one of the persons favouring the abolishment of the triple punishment. Now, the Frenchman, in whom a former football player, a football expert and a politician have surely unified in a unique manner, has therefore decided to ask UEFA Referee Committee headed by Pierluigi Collina to instruct their top referees accordingly. In the knockout stage of the two major UEFA club competitions, this guideline will first come into effect. 
Since the literal change of the Laws of the Game requires the IFAB's approval, this directive is only an advise or guideline. For now. As several powerful men inside FIFA (and maybe IFAB, too) are making pressure for this definite change of the Laws of the Game for a while, it is quite probable that UEFA's guideline could be kind of a blueprint in this matter. Unfortunately, Platini never was a referee and is therefore missing the adequate feeling for the Laws of the Game and spirit of football. What he and his companions seem to forget is that the red card was never only thought as a compensation for the denied obvious goal-scoring opportunity, but rather dealt with as a punishment for the offense and try to prevent a goal from being scored at all. Moreover, it was surely a deterrent factor. And some questions remain open. What if a player deliberately handles the ball on the goalline à la Luis Suarez? What if the consecutive penalty kick of any dogso-infringement does not lead to a goal, keeping in mind that a penalty kick exposes a different psychological pattern for the attacking team? How do you want to sell that to players and football fans, who consider a red card as a true and mere matter of justice after a deliberate infringement to be classified as dogso? 
Actually it must have been painful for Collina and co. having received this order by Monsieur Platini. It must feel hard to instruct one's referees such an absurdity. We'll see how the referees will deal with such situations in the k.o. stage - provided that appropiate incidents will occur, of course, which hopefully won't be the case. Otherwise, referees will be in a huge dilemma due to this populistic move by the FIFA-president-to-be.
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January 5, 2014

World Cup Referees - Predictions for South America

Having already yielded predictions of probable World Cup referees from three zones (AFC, CAF and CONCACAF), I would like to closely scrutinize the hosting confederation's situation. The South American federation CONMEBOL has steadily played an essential role with regard to football refereeing, specially in the current millennium, if we remember referees and their quality like Horacio Elizondo or Jorge Larrionda. Therefore, selecting seven profiled and excellent referees must be one of Massimo Busacca's main interests when forming Team No.33, keeping in mind South American officials have always been valid candidates for the final. But, as you will see, this time's pre-list referees are completely different than in the past years caused by a radical generation change because of the retirement of many referees we were used to see in the past.

Which South American referees will enjoy their World Cup this time?
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January 4, 2014

World Cup Referees - Predictions for North- and Central America and the Caribbean

That's part 3 of the series in that I am trying to predict the composition of the referee team to be nominated for World Cup 2014. After having already concentrated on AFC and CAF, this text will now examine the situation in the North- and Central American and Caribbean Federation (CONCACAF). The remaining confederations are supposed to follow so that a final list of predicted World Cup referees will emerge.

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January 1, 2014

Technical Mistake Reloaded

Ravshan Irmatov's technical mistake in Italy vs Brazil at FIFA Confederations Cup 2014 was certainly the mistake of the year, considering that it was pretty striking and did not offer any room for interpretation as discussed in the blog then: He first whistled in order to award a penalty kick but then changed his mind after recognizing the fouled team had scored a goal a second later. Consequently, Irmatov allowed the goal and infringed the Laws of the Game, which he later admitted to his boss Massimo Busacca. Hence, you should think that this mistake, its consequences and the correct version of the Laws of the Game on this matter have arrived everywhere in the world. And specially within FIFA refereeing. And in particular among Asian referees. But no, that was apparently not the case.

During the Under-17 World Cup 2013 match between Brazil and Russia, the following situation occurred in the 90th minute.


Referee Khalil Al-Ghamdi had obviously first whistled in order to award a penalty kick in favour of the Russian side. The whistle was audible and accompanied by a movement and gesture indicating "penalty!". What he then must have recognized was that the ball crossed the goalline after the attacker had already fallen to ground. Although the Saudi Arabian official had already whistled, he ignored his previous whistle and allowed the goal to count - to the surprise of all players, who however did not protest in any way. And by the way...the attacker slipped on the ground and was not fouled by his opponent. A penalty kick and consecutive red card for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity would have been wrong.

My message to young and amateur referees who are confronted with this kind of unprofessionalism is: Whistling for a match sanction such as a free-kick stops play! You cannot apply an advantage or even allow a goal after having already whistled. You must adhere to your whistle and remain determined - even though it might be painful.

First of all: mistakes are human and can happen, no doubt. But I would like to question the efficiency of FIFA's workup of Irmatov's mistake. Actually, the situation was surely analyzed and paid a lot of attention to during the seminars attended by all pre-selected referees. So Al-Ghamdi could have been familiar with this technical mistake and should have avoided to make it again. And this is the crucial point: we are talking about World Cup 2010 referees and those who want to reach the same in 2014. This technical error happened twice in not even half a year and both times Asian pre-list referees were involved. And here I get to a point where I doubt the sense of writing posts about predictions of possible World Cup referees when parts of these officials fail to apply the A of the ABC of the Laws of the Game in the according way. What should referees on grassroot level think? That's a mistake heaving serious consequences even at the lowest level of amateur football. And to clarify that: such a technical mistake might appear to be subtle. But it is everything else than that. You better miss three penalty kicks in the same match than making such an error. In fact, both teams could have officially complaint against the result of the match and could have gone in front of the responsible sports tribunal with much prospect to succeed.
So, to sum it up: on the level we are talking about, such mistakes are unacceptable and send a daunting message prior to a World Cup. Maybe FIFA should rather focus on lawtests as a basis for the World Cup referee selection instead of all those fitness tests - and yes Mr Busacca, uniformity and understanding different football mentalities, which he has frequently emphasized in the past months, are important factors that are vital for a World Cup referee...but knowing the Laws of the Game is no.1.

Nonetheless, I wish you a happy 2014 and for all referees following the blog, happy whistling and a many good matches!
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