Refereeing in Ukraine: the story from Andrii Slipukha

How’s Refereeing in Ukraine? In this blog post you’ll read the interesting story of how Andrii Sliphuka (19) tries to improve as a referee and reach his goals.

But first, check out the video I found online that led to me asking Andrii some questions.

“I am Andrii and I am a referee from Kiev, Ukraine. First my game was in September 2012, so it’s fifth year for me as an official.”

How he got started? “It’s an interesting story. From 2003 till 2012 I played football in regional team. Every half of the year we had a football match between parents and their sons. And of course, we needed a referee. I officiated for the first time there and until now it is one of the most interesting things I do.”

Refereeing in Ukrain u17 championship

“I’m refereeing on a u17 championship in Ukraine. Every weekend my friends and family will know that, when they woke up, I’ll be giving a start signal on the field somewhere in the country. Refereeing means early wake-ups, about 250 now, because games are played all around my country. My career also consists of around 800 different trips, many many whistles and happiness when you know you’ve done a great job. That’s what my weekend looks like during the season.”

Andrii is refereeing in Ukraine

Academy for referees

Andrii wants to get some international experiences and help, for example via the Referee Academy by Tournaments Abroad. He is going to officiate in the Paris World Cup and get mentored there. “The academy will be very important for me, because it gives me new opportunities. It also means new places, languages and football cultures, which I want to discover. There I will hear a lot of interesting and useful information, which I prefer to use in my country and our observers will positively evaluate this.”

Gaining experience abroad

“The Paris World Cup will be my first abroad experience, but not the last this year. In 2017 I am going to visit Lisboa, Saint-Petersburg, Russia; Toronto and Montreal, Canada; Paris, France, Poland and hope that I will be choosen for elite-tournament in Prague, Czech Republic. If I do it at all, my referee and social level will grow-up and it helps me to open new opportunities around the world.

Andrii Slipukha from Kiev

Useful tips for referees

“Three the best tips, which I heard from my coach (he’s in elite group refs in my country) are:

  • each decision must be made only after really seeing it (so no guessing of what might have happened);
  • maximum use of communication skills to control the game. You will always have a time to show the card.
  • be near a moment at an optimal distance. Then the most controversial decision will be perceived more credibly.

Share your tips

Please share tips that are useful for others.

Lee Markwick: referee and mentor in the UK

Lee Markwick followed the referee course when his son signed up for it. “As his dedicated taxi, I started to develop an interest in officiating”, he says in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog. Le Markwick (54) is a level 4 referee and he started officiating in 2011.

Lee Markwick quote

Please tell a bit more about how you got involved in refereeing?

Lee Markwick: “Two reasons

  1. At the age of 14 my son Dean stopped playing football and decided to take his referees’ course. As his dedicated taxi, I started to develop an interest in officiating. It was his learning and development that gave me the inspiration to also take up refereeing
  2. Having played and having a love of football I still wanted to be involved in the game”

Refereeing on Saturday, mentoring on Sunday

Where do you officiate and what does your refereeing weekend usually look like?

Lee Markwick: “I officiate on the South Midlands pool in the UK. I dedicate my whole Saturday to officiate and will often go and mentor a referee on a Sunday.”

Do you go to a referee association or train for yourself? How do you improve as a referee?

Lee Markwick: “I belong to an Association. I improve by watching, observing and talking to other referees, coach’s and observers. Self-reflection is a big part of my development and I take time to read articles on refereeing, fitness and mental strength and attitude.”

2017 has just started. What are your refereeing goals for next year? And how are you going to achieve them?

Lee Markwick: “I hope to achieve level 3 status by staying fit, working hard and taking on board all the advice I receive from the observers.”

Lee Markwick’s tips that will make you a better referee  

  1. Believe in yourself, be confident and be prepared to not always get it right
  2. Keep fit, look after yourself and learn the laws
  3. Smile, it’s only a game

Burak Özer: “I want to leave the pitch happy every game”

Burak Özer’s short-term goal is to leave the pitch happy at my next match. A great tip from this 20-year-old referee from Turkey. “And I renew my goal after every match.” Read more from the challenges and goals of this young Turkish footbal referee.

Hi Burak, please introduce yourself. 

 “My name is Burak Özer and I’m 20 years old. I’m from Turkey. I’ve been interested in refereeing for more than 3 years, but I only started to officiate matches this year.”

Referee Burak Özer

How did you get involved in refereeing? 

Burak Özer: “I always interested in football as almost every man in Turkey. I played at amateur levels or for school teams. And more than 3 years ago, one day my father asked me “Do you want to be a referee?”. First it didn’t sound good to me and I said no. I don’t know why, but my father said: “whatever, I’m signing up for you a course.” And thank god he signed me up.

A few weeks later I received an info e-mail about when and where the refereeing course will take place. I realized that I want to be a referee. When I took this course, I wasn’t accepted because of some external factors. At the beginning of 2016 with a 3-year delay I became a referee. But in these 3 years, I have done everything to improve myself and learned as much as I can about refereeing.”

Match preparation

Where do you officiate and what does your refereeing weekend usually look like?

Burak Özer: “For now, I officiate school matches and U-15 U-17 club matches. And sometimes my friends call me to to officiate their games. My preparations for my match starts when I get my appointment. Our appointments for every weekend are announced on Thursday night. Right after I get my appointment, I check the past results of the teams and the league table to make a prediction about the level of the game.

Then if I am appointed as an AR, on Friday afternoon I call my referee to confirm our match and arrange when and where we are going to meet. Then I prepare my bag and will be fully prepared to go to my match. On the match day, I wake up 3 hours before kick-off time or if the match is late, I wake up at 10:00. Then I make a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, take a shower, get shaved and I take the road.”

Biggest challenges

You mentioned to me you’re a newbie referee. What are your biggest challenges for you so far?

Burak Özer: “I don’t know. Every match is a new challenge. Sometimes aggressive players, sometimes a critical call. But also sometimes dealing with coaches and sometimes it can even be a rule that I have to explain to players.”

How will you deal with these challenges and how do train to become a better referee?

Burak Özer: “I always try to get tips from experienced referees and watch as much games as I can. And if I made a mistake in my game, I write it to a notebook. Before every game, I read this notebook to remember my mistakes so I won’t be doing them again. And also I do a physical training 3 or 4 times a week to be in a good physical condition.”

Goals for 2017

2017 has just started. What are your refereeing goals for this year? And how are you going to achieve them?

Burak Özer: “I have a short-term, a medium-term and a long term goal. My short-term goal is to leave the pitch happy at my next match. And I renew my goal after every match. As medium-term goal I want to advance to one level up. And as long term goal I want to officiate top-level matches of my country. And sure, as every referee’s superior goal, is to have a FIFA badge.”

3 useful tips from Burak Özer

  • Use your body language and whistle as your primary communication tool.
  • Always be self-confident – even if you made a mistake – but never avoid to tell your mistake.
  • Watch the referees; no matter if they officiate a champions league final or an amateur level game. Watch and see how they handle critic situations.

Harvey Newstead: “Getting as much experience as possible”

This week’s referee of the week is Harvey Newstead. He’s 15 years old and on the local Centre Of Refereeing Excellence. “The key at this stage of my career is to get as much experience as possible on youth games”, he says in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog.

Hi, please introduce yourself. 

My name is Harvey Newstead, I am 15 years of age and an English referee. I have been refereeing since September 2014 as a young leader and then once I was 14 I became qualifievold in October 2015 and have been refereeing ever since.

Referee Harvey Newstead collage

1,250 voluntary hours as referee

How did you get involved in refereeing? 

I have always had an interest of becoming a refereeing due to my uncle being a Level 4 Referee. And also my older cousin who is climbing up the refereeing ladder almost at level 4. I started by joining the Norfolk FA Football Futures programme after completing my Junior Football Leaders course with the FA when I was 12. This gave me a platform to learn and get an insight into refereeing and also coaching and through support of the Football Futures programme in refereeing and I did my course. The football Futures offer so much support to Referees that want to get started and offer so many opportunities many which are on a voluntary basis this is where I gained so much vital experience to help me before I did my course and I have now reached over 1,250 voluntary hours in Norfolk Football in just over 2 years.

Harvey Newstead with professional referees


Where do you officiate and what does your refereeing weekend usually look like?

I officiate all my games in Norfolk in the NCYFL, NWGFL and school and Norwich City Academy games. I am also currently on my Futsal referees course so have done a few youth futsal games as well. My week normally will be at least one school game every week with training on another night and then Fitness training with Norfolk FA referees on a Thursday night. At the weekend, I normally have a NWGFL match or Futsal for NCYFL. Then on a Sunday I will normally have a game at the Norwich City Academy or a NCYFL match.

Harvey Newstead as center referee

Local CORE program

Do you go to a referee association or train for yourself?

I go a Referee’s association where we have monthly meetings and I have meetings with my mentor and talk about how each month has gone and reflect over games.

You’re a NCFA CORE Referee. Please tell a bit more about this and how it has helped you.

Being selected for NCFA CORE is great. What it is ? It is that National FA run a Centre Of Refereeing Excellence programme for level 7’s downwards with a pathway for them to be promoted and help them develop. For youth referees then, Norfolk FA set up their own Norfolk FA CORE group. We referee at the Norwich City Academy and have different referees come and coach us each week. This is a great opportunity and development for us young referees hoping to progress in refereeing and hopefully then push onto National CORE.

Harvey Newstead coming out of tunnel

Goals for 2017

2017 has just started. What are your refereeing goals for this year? And how are you going to achieve them?

For next season I hope to still be enjoying and loving my refereeing like I am now. And as I will be turning 16, I will be starting to officiate in adult football and possibly for a promotion from Level 7 to 6 in March 2018. So the start of the 2017/18 season will be big for me in my development as a referee and I will achieve this with the great support of my mentor, my referee development officer at Norfolk FA and the football futures programme.

Harvey Newstead on the line

Gain experience

What is the best advice you ever got that made you a better referee?

The key at this stage of your career is to get as much experience as possible on youth games. Make the gradual step into adult football when the time comes. Do not rush to progress up the ladder too quickly as gaining as much match experience as possible is essential.

Finally, as I know you will, keep listening to advice from coaches, colleagues and assessors over time and ask questions when scenarios arise which you are not sure about.- Lee Betts- FIFA Assistant Referee

Former FIFA ref Knut Kircher has some tips for you

Knut Kircher officiated more than 18 years in the German top leagues and was also a FIFA international referee. Due to age restrictions he has to quit in 2016. In this interview with Dutch Referee Blog he looks back on his career with some “special moments”.

You had a wonderful career as Bundesliga and Fifa referee. Last season was your last because of the age limit of 47 in Germany. How do you look back on your career? What are your pinnacles?

Knut Kircher: I look back with a wonderful and pleased smile in my face, more than 18 years in professional football, a dream. I had a lot of fantastic experiences in matches and with all that jazz. Sure, there were some special moments like the national cup final in 2008, a lot of international matches in South Korea, Lybia, South Arabia, Qatar, etc.

Referee Knut Kircher

Knut Kircher in action. Photo provided by referee himself.

Knut Kircher’s last game

Your last game was Bayern München vs Hannover 96 in May. That’s now more than half a year ago. Do you miss refereeing? And how do you stay involved in the game?

I was well prepared to do the final whistle and currently I don´t miss active refereeing. I am still involved as an observer and coach for referees in the first three German professional leagues. And it is a really good job to give my freshest experiences to the former colleagues.

Involvement in refereeing

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing and why did you like it so much that you kept doing it?

Knut Kircher: It was 1986 and my home club looked for new referees instead of paying fees for less referees in a club, so I decided to try it together with 3 more youth players of my team. The first 3 years I had about 18 games in total, not that much, but after these 3 years I found my way to inner circle of refereeing, having fun with decision making and managing games in a modern way, first as a referee assistant, then as a referee in higher leagues. It is a wonderful job, be involved in interactions with different people, different problems and finding quick and proper solutions for the game itself.

Making a big mistake

What’s the hardest challenge/problem you faced during your career? And how did you solve it?

Knut Kircher: The hardest problem was always when I made a big mistake, faced to me on TV, and you had to explain it all the time, why did it happen. But the only thing what I wanted to do was, going back on the pitch showing all the people that I could do it better. The best way to work on it, think positive and keep your smile!

Have fun

You made your debut at Germany’s 2nd level in 1998 and continued for 18 years at the professional levels. How did you manage to do that with a family life, your job at Daimler and doing training sessions? What do talented referees need to keep in mind when they want to combine these with a career as referee at the highest levels?

I have always explained, I was living in 3 own worlds. Private one, real professional one and the referees world. You have to accept, that you will never content all of them but you can use them as an island to relax, to prepare for the next challenges and you have to live them with a high intensity. Have fun and you will never talk about time problems, live now and enjoy everything!

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in officiating over the years?

Knut Kircher: The game is getting more dynamic and more popular in media!

This referee blog started in 2010 because in my opinion there was not enough positive attention towards referees by the media. If there was a story, it was about a mistake. You ask yourself in an interview with Spox if referees shouldn’t talk more with the media. What are your thoughts on that.

Knut Kircher: There have to be a steady contact between the medias and the referees to be able to inform and explain decisions. Transparency is always necessary! I don´t know exactly if German referees are the only referees in world who are allowed to talk to the media directly after a match.

Knut Kircher

Knut Kircher. Photo provided by referee himself.

Refereeing gets more professional

How do you see the future of refereeing? What things need to be changed in the (near) future?

Knut Kircher: Refereeing is becoming more and more professional, so the national associations have to create the circumstances for the referees to make them independent.

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee  

Knut Kircher: Three simple and most popular tips:

  1. Keep the game and your decisions as simple as possible
  2. Try to find an answer to the question, what does the game need in this moment
  3. Accept mistakes as a normal human being

Seth Kehr tries to improve on and off the pitch

Seth Kehr is only 14 years old, but has almost three years of experience as a referee. He doesn’t only put refereeing in practice on the pitch, but also tries to improve at home. “When I’m at home I will talk to other referees about their experiences and share my own”, he says in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog. “I’ll look in the mirror and practice my facial expressions and body language, and I can’t say that my family hasn’t caught me taking my phone out of my pockets, and practice different techniques of showing a card.

Hi Seth Kehr, please introduce yourself.
Hello Jan! First of all, thank you so much for taking your time for this interview, I really appreciate it. I am fourteen years old and been a certified referee since February, 2014 when I took a grade 8 class. I reside in upper NY.

Seth Kehr as referee.

Seth Kehr as referee. Photo provided by ref.

How did you get involved in refereeing?
“I often ask myself now the reason that I started, and I wish that I had made a note of why I did back then. My older brother, who is seventeen, started before me. When he started that was when i got my beginning interests to become a referee. also, there has always been a part of me that enjoys working with adults, and being treated as an adult. when i referee a game, they don’t agree on everything just because i am young, which i appreciate.

Where do you officiate and what does your refereeing weekend look like?
I’m glad you brought up the travel aspect! My parents are very supportive of me in this career and are willing to take me to very distant places for a game, tournament, or training session. I live in upstate NY, around 2 hours north of New York City. For the most part, I referee in the local youth league. Ad occasionally get an opportunity to work an adult game, or in various premier leagues closer to the city. This past summer I was lucky enough to go to Europe. I went there with two other experienced, young referees from NY, along with a national referee from Maine.

That’s where I was a referee at elite youth tournaments in Spain, Portugal, and France (Ibercup and Paris World Games). They were quite magnificent tournaments with professioanl youth academies from around the globe, such as Liverpool, Manchester City, Juventus, and many, many more. There were also top quality referees and assessors from many countries, including UEFA observers and FIFA referees. On an average weekend, I’ll find myself doing 2-4 games. Saturdays are when state cup along with other premier leagues play. On sunday is when I will work with my local league. For the most part, I’m an assistant referee.

Different requirements in each state

How is refereeing organized in your country?
In the United States, our promotion procedure just recently changed. A very young, beginning official starts as a grade 9, which allows him/her to referee in non-competitive leagues. Some states do not offer referees to be a grade 9, and have them start as a grade 8, which allows them to referee in competitive youth games. And occasionally he will be given a chance on an amateur adult game. Each state has different age requirements for different levels.

In Eastern NY you must be 17 to become a grade 7, which allows you to referee in amateur adult games. You’ll also be given higher profile adult games to test your abilities at what grade 6’s do. Up until this point you can referee in the middle, be an assistant referee, or, where applicable, a 4th official. starting at grade 5, you must declare if you are going to take the center/4th official track, or the AR track moving forward. This is when you move into the national pool, and start getting assignments from US soccer. Depending on which track you choose, you will skip grade 4 and go to 3, and then once again skip 2 and go to 1, or vice versa.

Watching clips at RA

Do you go to a referee association or train for yourself?
I do a little of both. Once a month my local association has a meeting where we discuss various possible situations and watch video clips. I am also part of my state’s advanced group, which meets once every month either for a field session, or classroom. This group is run by MLS referee Robert Sibiga. We will go even more in depth on various situations. It is great to be able to have the person who made the call on the television, be able to talk to us on why he, or one of his collegues made the decision. He will often bring in special guests such as PRO (professional referees organization) assessors and development manager.

When I’m at home I will talk to other referees about their experiences and share my own. I’ll look in the mirror and practice my facial expressions and body language. And I can’t say that my family hasn’t caught me taking my phone out of my pockets, and practice different techniques of showing a card.

I’ve also found that while I’m having a conversation just with my friends or family, i will bring in different “tactics” that referees use such as body language… so i believe you don’t have to be on the field to practice. I also think that refereeing isn’t just getting the calls right on the field, but rather it gives you an entire package. You need to be professional, humble, resonsible, as well as so many more things that happen behind the scenes. I can think back to before I was a referee and i see a dramatic difference in those traits now. And a big part of it is definitely because of refereeeing, and the referees, family, and friends who have been so helpful to me in this career.

No mistakes are forgotten

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?
I think the thing that i enjoy most is the friendships I have made through refereeing. I’ve gotten the privilege of getting to know and work with referees who work in the top leagues in the United States, as well as other countries, along with the “just beginning” referees in my area. However, I loved to play as well, there is something else that excites me when I’m refereeing. And I’m still trying to find what that something is.

Perhaps it is the idea of solving problems, or maybe knowing that each and every decision you make, influences the game. Meanwhile in the left defense position (my position). If you meant to pass it to a midfielder, but instead it goes out of bounds. After your team gains possession back, your mistake is forgotten.

The first game I ever did was a under 8 recreational game, and I’m sure it was clear to everyone that it was indeed my first game. I don’t recall all the mistakes I made that game. Although I do remember my assignor who was watching the game, having to come onto the field for the rest of the game and help me out. That was the closest moment that I felt like quitting. Over the past 2 years refereeing has made me much stronger mentally and I’ll be looking to take this career as far along in the latter as I can.

Referee Seth Kehr on the pitch

Disallowing a Lisbon goal

What’s the hardest challenge/problem you faced during your career? and how did you solve it?
I consider a challenge different than a problem, so I’ll talk about the hardest of each. Both occurred this past summer when I was in Spain, and in the end they both improved my experience as an official. The biggest problem was in the U12 category in the semi final: Liverpool vs Sporting Lisbon. It was 2-0 in favor of Lisbon at the end of the first half. At the beginning of the second half, Sporting Lisbon puts the ball in the net again, but I felt they kicked it out of the goalies hands, so I disallowed the goal. I looked back at the end of the game of the video and it was the correct call. Liverpool then scores three goals, and won the game.

The mistake i made was only adding 18 seconds, when I probably should’ve added at least two minutes. after the game the sporting lisbon coach comes on the field and starts to show his disappointment towards me. I must’ve responded in English with a word that sounds or means something bad in Portuguese. This must’ve put him over the edge so he got a couple inches away from me. I decided not to back up, and then i got kicked. I am happy that I didn’t retaliate, and at this point the security came and escorted me to the changing rooms. The way that we managed it later that night, was simply having a civil meeting with the referee coodinators, and the coach.

Refereeing on national tv

The hardest challenge came the very next day. Throughout the week referees, just like players were “competing” to get a final. With around 160 referees and only 18 finals, obviously not everyone can get one. I wasn’t disappointed with my performances throughout the week, but I felt that with the issue I just explained, along with my age, they would opt to choose someone else. Later that night when the assignments were released I was most certainly surprised to see my name on the U10 final.

The challenge wasn’t necessarily the game itself, but rather my nerves knowing that it was going to be on national tv. Luckily, the other referees did nothing but support me and the game went smoothly with no problems. And i was able to ignore the camera as much as possible, but I absolutely loved it. By the time the Portugese tournaments finals happened, I wasn’t nearly as nervous.

Seth Kehr’s goals for 2017

It’s almost 2017. What are your refereeing goals for next year? And how are you going to achieve them?
The key for me is to get games. Any experience I can get I will gladly accept, whether it’s as an assistant or in the middle. The biggest part I’ve found that needs work is having good communication with the players and team managers. And that is something I can work on both as an assistant, or in the center. But also just in my day-to-day life during the week as I’m talking to a group of friends my age or colleagues, many which are adults.

I’ve done my state cups finals for the past two years, and doing what I can to be invited back upcoming year. I’ve been to one identification event for a youth premier league in my state and was chosen. So I’m hoping to work with and meet some of the promising referees in our state in this leagues games. I hope to be successful in them myself. Another goal for me is to return to Europe in the summer of 2017, and be more successful than this past year. There is ALWAYS things you can improve on.

As I said before, experience is the key in this career. As long as you make it a point to learn something every game, the more games you do, the better referee you will be. Post game talks are very important for me. That is when I can listen to the rest of the refereeing crew on things iIneed to work on, and I can share some advice for them as well. So if I get enough games, learn something from each one, then practice, I feel I’ll be successful in these goals. That will make it possible to expand them bigger and bigger.

Stay out of politics

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee?
My number one tip came from MLS referee Robert Sibiga around a year ago. He explained that there are a lot of politics in the referee world and to try and stay out of them as much as possible. He also talked to me about the importance of being humble and letting others invite me to events, rather than me inviting myself to events. this is something that is not only great advice for refereeing, but for life in general. All of this being done as he is in his hotel about to referee in the MLS — talk about a humble man!

Another piece of advice came to me by one of my trusted mentors Rich Zayas, a very successful state referee in NY. He told me the importance of taking my time in refereeing and not getting ahead of myself. If you go too fast, sooner than later, you will get caught in something that will set you backwards. If you are patient however, you will have seen more situations and experiences, so that when you are ready to move up, the game is also ready for you.

Law 18: use common sense

This advice has been given to me by many people. When we first start refereeing I believe many of us memorize as many of the laws as we can. But the situations in the law book that say “with the referees discretion”. We skip over and don’t want to worry about. In the beginning we are nervous to make a decision that isn’t 100% backed up by the LOTG. The point that I’m getting at here is law 18 – using common sense. The tough part about being a referee isn’t the parts that are spelled clearly out in the books. But rather the many times when you need to make a decision, based on the LOTG and your reaction to the situation. That is what separates a good referee from a great referee in my mind.

Interviews with first ever Gibraltar FIFA referees

The first ever Gibraltar FIFA referees are given their international badge. A unique moment for the small European country. Referee boss Adrian Bacarisa can be proud, because his goal was to get the first international refs by the end of 2016.

I got the chance to interview the three new referees. Congratulations to:

  • Jason Barcelo – DOB 16th January 1980 – FIFA Referee
  • Johan Ward – DOB 26th August 1982 – FIFA Assistant Referee
  • Zyl Sheriff – DOB 24th September 1987 – FIFA Futsal Referee

First ever Gibraltar FIFA referees

The word is out now. You’ve been chosen as first ever Gibraltar FIFA referees. Congratulations! What does it mean to you? How did you get the news?

Jason Barcelo: “It has been a long road getting to FIFA recognition. And being the first Gibraltarian Referee to be FIFA listed makes me very proud. I got a phone call from the GFA Referee Manager Adrian Bacarisa that I had been accepted into the FIFA list for 2017. It was brilliant news.”

Johan Ward: “Being selected as one of Gibraltar’s first official FIFA referees is a great honour.  It is a great reward after the commitment, time and effort that I have dedicated over the last 3 years to refereeing. A great sense of achievement. I received the news from Adrian Bacarisa. He informed me that I had been nominated by the Gibraltar Football Association and had been successful in the application.”

Zyl Sheriff: “Well for starters I’d like to thank you for having me in your blog. I got the news in the morning a few days ago via a What’s app group that us nominees had when we were nominated some weeks ago. I was overwhelmed and kept reading it over and over again as I could not believe what I was reading on my phone. This means I can now further explore my refereeing career. I will bring back to Gibraltar everything I can learn and make Futsal a more professional sport.”

Jason Barcelo receiving his FIFA badge. Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Jason Barcelo receiving his FIFA badge. Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Start of their refereeing career

Please introduce yourself and how you got involved in refereeing

Jason Barcelo: “I started refereeing at the age of 16 years in 1997 after taking an interest in learning the Laws of the Game. I quickly progressed through the promotion ladder achieving my Category 1 Referee Certificate in time for Season 2001/02. I have refereed abroad on previous occasions in nearby Spain in friendly matches and in the Island Games Tournament.”

Johan Ward: “My name is Johan Ward and I am 34 years of age. I am married with three daughters and am employed as a Police Constable in the Royal Gibraltar Police. I got involved in refereeing thanks to a work colleague of mine, now the Head of Youth Football in the GFA. He convinced me to start refereeing in order to assist with the youth football.  I specialized as an assistant referee very soon into my refereeing career.”

Zyl Sheriff: “My name is Zyl Sheriff I’m 29 years old, born and raised in Gibraltar. Husband to my beautiful wife with two kids and another little one on the way. On the summer of 2013 I was approached by a friend of mine if I was interested in refereeing a small tournament which for some reason I accepted. I enjoyed it and decided to make it a career ever since. I started my refereeing career in august 2013 on the recommencement of Futsal in Gibraltar. That was just after we have been accepted as the 54th UEFA member. Since then it has all been hard work from my Futsal colleagues and I. After all the hard work and Gibraltar being accepted into FIFA I was approached by our refereeing director Adrian Bacarisa. He asked me if I was interested in furthering my career as a referee which I accepted immediately.”

Achieving higher standards

Gibraltar’s referee boss Adrian Bacarisa told me in 2013: “I am extremely thankful to my fellow colleagues and UEFA personnel for supporting me in the whole process. I want to achieve the standards expected by UEFA and having been accepted today into the Referee Convention”. What did you all do to achieve higher standards

Jason Barcelo: “Since Gibraltar joining UEFA back in 2013 financial help was made available. This meant that we referees could get specialised fitness training and technical instructions practically on a weekly basis. FIFA Fitness Tests were made mandatory and with this refereeing in Gibraltar has improved overall.”

Refereeing abroad

Johan Ward: “In answer to Adrian Bacarisa’s quote the things that we (the referees) have done to achieve our high standards is the following;

  • continuous seminars and referee workshops to maintain our knowledge on the laws of the games, as well as to learn the new laws passed every year.  
  • Continuous feedback and mentoring from our match referee observers who inform us of ways to improve both during post match debrief and via match reports.
  • Development and improvement of our training standards/levels to improve our fitness through our fitness trainer.
  • The chance to officiate in small tournaments abroad such as the Ibercup and the referee exchanges that are now being done with other countries. As well as the chance to attend CORE.
Johan Ward receiving his FIFA badge. Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Johan Ward receiving his FIFA badge. Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Zyl Sheriff: “Referees in Gibraltar both football and futsal have been having a strict training program. We get help from our fitness training instructor and school friend of mine James Alvarez. He has always been getting us all to achieve our highest standards in training and how to make the best of ourselves. I work night shifts as a refuse truck driver and I cannot make training sessions. That means I have to train solely during mornings. I train with advice from James and have Adrian to help me when practicing the FIFA fitness tests.”

Goals for 2017

What do you expect for 2017 as referee?

Jason Barcelo: “In 2017 I expect for many new refereeing experiences and to hopefully travel abroad to different countries to experience the different styles of football, and cultures.”

Johan Ward: “For 2017 I expect more of the same with regards to refereeing.  However, there is the added incentive of continually improving my standard as an assistant referee and also to improve my fitness levels.”

Zyl Sheriff: “I expect to achieve high expectations and make Gibraltar proud as the small community that we all are. Here when someone receives a high achievement everyone in Gibraltar will feel that they have achieved it too.”

Keep improving

How will you make sure you’ll keep improving?

Jason Barcelo: “With the help of my referee coaches and colleagues both domestically and now internationally. I will also hope to learn the different refereeing styles from my new international colleagues. Hopefull I’ll take the positives into my own game.”

Johan Ward: “In order to keep improving I will ensure that I attend the seminars/workshops provided by the GFA Refereeing Department. I will take advantage of the training sessions provided by our fitness coach. I also will take note and consider taking the advice of our dedicated referee observers, as well as to ensure that the diet/training and match preparation is adhered to.”

Zyl Sheriff: “After being accepted as a FIFA listed referee I cannot let my guard down and think that this is the end. I now have to work even harder than ever to keep improving. Being such a small community everyone in Gibraltar is well-known . When refereeing I have many good friends on the pitch and outside of the pitch which sometimes tends to make refereeing harder. But I cannot let that get to me and need to enforce the laws of the game the best possible way.”

Chances for first ever Gibraltar FIFA referees

What chances are there for referees from small countries like Gibraltar?

Jason Barcelo: “Despite being a smaller nation, Gibraltar is growing rapidly in the international stage. And with the correct progress and attitude, there is no limitations to any referee, regardless of their nationality.”

Johan Ward: “Well the recent trend seems to show that there are opportunities available for referees of small countries such as Gibraltar.  Recently one of my colleagues successfully completed his UEFA CORE programme. Another group of colleagues went on a referee exchange to Malta. And our youth referees continually take part in summer international tournaments and now the three of us have been accepted into the list of FIFA referees. All this shows that the opportunities are available.”

Zyl Sheriff: “I’d have to say that we have an equal chance as any other country in the world and we are here to try and prove that.”

Tips for you to improve

What tips do you have for other referees to help them improve?

Jason Barcelo: “My tips for younger referees would be to make sure they enjoy their refereeing As this is a line of work which you need to enjoy. I would also advise the younger referees to take advice from their technical coaches and physical instructors. That’s because the game is constantly becoming more rapid, and fitness is essential in the modern game.”

Johan Ward: “Be yourself and relax whilst officiating.  Remember that pre-match, during the match and post-match you are the example to follow and the person of authority. And as a result you have to present yourself adequately.  Be professional, treat everyone with respect and most of all enjoy the game we all love.”

Zyl Sheriff receiving his FIFA badge. Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Zyl Sheriff receiving his FIFA badge. Photo courtesy of Gibraltar FA

Zyl Sheriff: “Being focused and being very concentrated in a game for me is the most important aspect, as you can lose concentration very quickly in a game.  It could turn out to be worse for you. I have my own way of refereeing and only by experience you get to make yourself a better referee if you really want too.”

The future of the first ever Gibraltar FIFA referees

What are your goals for the future?

Jason Barcelo: “With this fantastic new opportunity my goals are to educate myself further as a referee. I have to improve my performance on the pitch, and to help the younger referees, with the new experience I will gain.”

Johan Ward: “My goals for the future is to keep improving and continue representing my colleagues, team/family/country to the best of my ability.  If I have the chance to officiate an international game, then that would be a great moment in my life.”

Zyl Sheriff: “My goals for the future is to improve as a Futsal referee. I want to make Gibraltar proud and encourage younger generations that refereeing can be a very highly rated career and also enjoyable.”