Hakan Anaz, the Australian assistant referee during the World Cup, talks about a great moment in his career during this Question & Answer with Dutch Referee Blog.
First the most important thing of this year: You were an assistant referee during the World Cup in Brazil. How did you experience it?
Hakan Anaz: “The experience this summer in Brazil was truly special. FIFA told us that not many referees get to go to a World Cup. A World Cup in the atmosphere in Brazil is a once in a lifetime experience, truly unforgettable experience. All the referees knew how special is would be. Having said that, all the referees were there to referee games and all the referees just wanted to get out onto the park. We trained 36 out of the 39 days we were there, so we had excellent preparation during the tournament.”
“Team Australia (with Ben Williams and Matthew Cream)were fortunate to have 3 games during the tournament. After appointments were announced by FIFA, all the referees congratulated the respective referees. It was a very good atmosphere. All the referees got along very well. For me walking out before every game was special. I’ve worked 20 years for this moment and arriving on the biggest sports tournament in the world was worth all the blood , sweat and tears. It was very fulfilling. Having said that, the round of 16 game Costa Rica Vs Greece was a very pleasing experience for Team Australia because it was the first time a match trio from Australia has refereed a game in the knock-out stages.”
It was your first one WC – and probably your last one because you are 44 now. What are your goals now in refereeing? Will you stay AR on national level or do you have other ambitions?
Hakan Anaz: “I have now retired from active refereeing. My goal has always been to get to the World Cup. I achieved that. I always have been humble during my referee career and feel that going on more than you need to would be selfish, and my character is never like that. I want the next generation to have a chance at achieving what I have achieved, and I exit the stage at the highest level possible. Not many can say that. I knew the time was right to leave so I declined the contract offer by Football Federation Australia to referee further in the national league.”
“Having said that, going to the World Cup and Olympics comes with a certain responsibility and that is to pass on your experience and knowledge to the next generation. This is for others to decide. But I have always been ready to help and assist where I can.”
How do you improve yourself as referee?
Hakan Anaz: “I am my worst critic. I watch my games, even when I know the game went well, and critically analyse my decisions, positioning and performance. I have an ethos and that is “you never stop learning”. You always analyse your game and you always try to achieve a higher and higher level. I do a lot of visualisation and technical drills at training so that I am as prepared as much as I can. There is a saying “fail to prepare … prepare to fail”, My preparation – both physical and technical – was at a very high standard prior to the tournament and I’m sure our Round of 16 appointment we got our reward for all 3 of us.”
What else brought 2014 for you as referee?
Hakan Anaz: “One of the most important for me was not only the memories, but also the lasting friendships. This is also important because there will always come a time when referees will no longer officiate. What is always long lasting is your friendships you make along the way. I have made some great friends who I always stay in contact with which is something that means a lot to me. Your fellow Dutch referee, Bjorn Kuipers, his assistants Sander and Erwin, was some good friendships I made in the 2 years on the candidates program.”
“2014 also bought to me retirement from refereeing but also now a new phase in my life. I now have more time with my family which I want to devote more time to. I have a young daughter who is very happy now to have her dad spend more time at home. I enjoy family time.”
Hakan Anaz (left), referee Ben Williams (center) and Matthew Cream. Photo provided by referee.
What does your daily routine look like?
“I still have my full time job as an accountant. I work from 7 till 5 then go training 2-3 days a week. Even though I have retired, I still want to remain physically active. I have always had a very good level of fitness and I still do the FIFA fitness test every so often. When I am not training, I get home early and spend some time with the family or do some maintenance around the house. If I can watch some local A-League games I like to and if I can pass on some coaching points to referees/assistants then I am only too willing to.”
Back to your roots. How did you become a referee?
“I have played football since I was 7. I love football. I played until I was 23 at which time I knew I could not make the highest level of football in Australia. So I wanted to remain active in football. A friend of mine was a referee so I decided to give it a go. After about 6 months, I enjoyed it so much, I decided to devote more of my time and energy towards refereeing. As I moved higher up the ranks, my goals changed and I set myself higher and higher goals. When we were put on the candidates program back in 2012, we knew that it would be a very intense program as FIFA wanted only the best referees and assistants at the Brazil World Cup. We kept working harder and harder, always knowing that there was never any guarantee of being selected to go to Brazil. We were always well grounded and knew we had to keep working hard.”
I’ve seen many referees with Turkish roots climbing the refereeing ranks in other countries. Aytekin in Germany, Gozubuyuk in The Netherlands and of course you in Australia. What is the reason by their and your success?
Hakan Anaz: “I think ones personality is very important here. It does not matter if you are from such and such a country, the reason for anyone’s success is hard work, and being humble. Of course it is rather special when you have lived your life in one country and you are appreciated in the country of your parents birth. But there is no substitute for hard work. I would like to believe that we were chosen because all the instructions and directives that FIFA wanted of us, we fulfilled and then some.”
“The planning that the 3 of us went through for the 2 and a half year on the program was so meticulous I think in the end paid off with our selection. And of course, there is the performances on the field. Being honest and humble is very important. But also applying the laws of the game, and never compromising on your morals is also very important. Respect for yourself and fair play.”
What advice would you give to (young) referees?
Hakan Anaz: “If you want to achieve the highest in whatever you do, be it as a player, coach or referee, then be prepared to work hard. Planning is important. Always be humble. Always review your past matches and always learn from other referees. When I started refereeing, I had 2 “mentors” who I was always asking for advice, trying to understand what the art of refereeing is about. Learning from other referees is important, but also to take advice. If another more experienced referee gives you advice, be prepared to listen and appreciate what he/she is saying. Refereeing is not black and white, sometimes it is grey. It’s how a referee reacts to these grey areas is important. And always let your personality come through in your refereeing. And always be in position, this helps “sell” your decision. Whether as a referee or as an assistant, if you are in position then you can sell your decision. Finally, enjoy refereeing. If you don’t enjoy refereeing this will show in your performance.”
Read the interview with Ben Williams, Hakan Anaz’ refereeing partner during the World Cup, on my blog.