Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The big season for the not so-Fat Ref

It was only when I was clearing up some old papers the other day that I came across the document announcing I had passed my test to become a referee – dated February 2002. I’ve been a ref for 14 years!
 And finally, after all those years, I’ve got my act together enough to be reasonably close to getting myself to being promoted to Level 5.

This season will be crucial to those chances. I’ve already started on the scheme, which is tough by anyone’s standards. I’ve already passed a written test on the laws of football and attended various events to show my commitment to football in Kent. Most importantly however, I’ve already had two of the four – or even 5 – assessments I will have before I have a chance of being promoted. One of the assessments was satisfactory and the other said I was above the required standard. Over the next two or three months I’ll be assessed a couple of times more to see if I’m up to it.

One by-product of being on the assessment programme is that referees are given more senior games to run, to test their abilities at a higher level. So it was on Saturday that I got to referee my first match in the premier division of the my local county league. For years I’ve run the line in these games, but this was my first experience of actually having assistants helping me. I suppose it’s to be expected, but having qualifies linesmen – as opposed to a substitute or manager carrying the flag – was a huge help as they could more or less take command of larg chunks of the pitch.
For example, I was stranded once when the ball was booted upfield. Sprinting as hard as I could, I was still 40 yards away from the action when the attacker screamed for a penalty. Happily, I had an assistant standing 15 yards from the action who quickly indicated there had not been a foul and we could carry on. What a luxury for me.
Losing a large amount of weight over the past year has been the key factor in becoming a better referee – and a healthier human – and I feel a lot lighter on my feet while reffing. I struggled over the summer, putting on a lot of weight while in Paris for 5 weeks working at the European Championships. But in the past month – helped by the dull food options in Brazil – I’ve lost a lot of that gained weight and am now almost back to my level at the end of the season, about 108 kgs. As you can tell, this is still too much and I’m aiming to get to 100 kilos (under 16 stone) by Christmas.
But whatever happened, I’m pretty sure Level 5 – if I make it – is as high as I’ll go. Level 4 is the level at which you have to make a major commitment to refereeing, working on what are called Supply Leagues (to the Football League) in semi-professional football. In many ways, I’m confident I could referee at that level, but it would be extremely hard to commit myself to travelling all over southern England for evening games, leaving work in mid-afternoon and not getting home until the early hours of the morning. But most of all, I think my advanced years will disqualify me from running 2.6 kilometers in 12 minutes, the minimum standard demanded for the higher levels of football. I think I could lose another 50 kilos and not be able to run that fast. That’s roughly 6 laps of an athletics track in 12 minutes, 2 minutes per lap. A fit youngster can do this relatively easiy, but I’m in my 50s. Ah well.
So my target, this season or next, is Level 5. That’ll give me lots of interesting games and challenges to keep me busy on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

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