Jens Maae: 2017 is the best year in my refereeing career

Jens Maae thinks 2017 is the best year in his refereeing career. He officiates the Euro u17 final and the Danish cup final. But that doesn’t mean he will stop working hard in 2018. There are new goals. “The most imortant thing is to enjoy myself and second is getting to category 2 in UEFA”, he says in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog.

Jens G. Maae is 35 years old and a referee since 1998. He is a semi-professional referee that works part-time as a physiotherapist. Check out the interview about his wonderful last year plus his future career. 

Jens Maae entering the field of play during the 2017 Danish cup final

Jens Maae entering the field of play during the 2017 Danish cup final. Screenshot from FC Kobenhavn video on YouTube

The u17 Euro final

You officiated the u17 Euro final this year. How did you experience 2017 and this tournament in particular?

Jens Maae: “2017 will for sure be my best refereeing year in my career – participating in the U17 final tournament in Croatia, and afterwards refereeing the Danish cup final between FC Copenhagen and Brøndby. In particular being to the final tournament  – working with colleagues from different countries, and learning from some of the best observers/coaches in Europe.”

You officiated the final with assistants Mika Lamppu from Finland and Russia’s Alexei Vorontcov. How do you prepare for a final? What does day look like? And how is it to work with AR’s from different countries?

Jens Maae: “When appointed to the final, it was important for me to get together with Mika and Alexei as much as possible – to form a team.

Preparing for the final included specific training exercises on matchday minus 2 and 1″. (MD-2 and MD-1 in training schedules, the days before the game, Jan).

“On MD-1 we got together with a coach with scouting notes of the two teams. And we had a pre-match discussion, because I want to make sure who will do the different things in the match,  how I would like them to react in certain situations and so on. AR’s from different countries are used to work differently, so it is very important, that we are aligned as much as possible before going on the field of play.”

“On the matchday we eat breakfast and lunch together. But otherwise are we alone – to get mentally ready. Different referees think differently about what to do on the matchday, but I prefer a small walk, sleep – just relaxing.

“We arrive at the stadium 1.5  hours before kick-off, we also check the pitch and then go to the dressing room. I hear some music – just to feel relaxed! Warm-up – and then GAME TIME!”

Jens Maae

The team is key for Jens Maae

Mika Lamppu talked about chemistry in a refereeing team on my blog in September. He says: “For example, the final was my first match with mr. Maae, but we managed to build a good cooperation thanks to spending much time together during the weeks.” How important is “the team” for you and how do you build it? 

Jens Maae: “The team is very important – I need to trust them 100% in situations.

That is why I use a lot of time with my collegues – getting to know them (both personally and professionally) – and letting them know about my football philosophy. In Denmark we change AR every week – it has it’s weakneses and it’s strenghts – but when going to an international match, we get together – to get aligned.”

“All people are different, and you can learn something from every human being.”

A family of referees

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing?

Jens Maae: “When I was 15 (1997) – my father and big brother were a referee. I was working as a paper boy, but I thought it was boring. So a group of boys from school went to this course and became referees. So in the beginning it was a job (beginning of 1998), becoming a hobby, becoming a career.”

“A funny story is that one of the boys from school is Jørgen Daugbjerg Burchardt. He is a FIFA referee today as well.”

Refereeing the Copenhagen derby

Which steps on the refereeing ladder did you take so far? And how are refereeing facilities in your country? 

Jens Maae: “In the Danish league there are no more steps, I have reached the top. I have refereed the big Copenhagen derby and the cup final.” I also won “referee of the year” after beeing in the top division for 1 ½ years.

Internationally im in Category 3, which is the lowest category in UEFA. My ambition after doing well in the U17, is to be promoted to the category 2 the coming summer 2018. As mentioned I am part-time employed by the FA. We also have a physical coach and several other coaches to help us develop.”

“But in comparison, UEFA is a top top professional organisation. It has a massive set-up and top professional persons working for them.”

Adrenaline kicks for refs

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?  

Jens Maae: “I love beeing in the center of the greatest game on earth. In Denmark football is number 1 sport – everyone has an opinion about the matches in the weekend. And I love the attention, or lack of it, when a situation in a match is solved correctly. The adrenaline kick after doing a good match is massive.”

“When I became father seven years ago, everything you are spending time on, comes into a perspective. I did not think about stopping, but when getting insults or critisised by fans or clubs unfairly, gets you to think about your future.”

What’s the hardest challenge/problem during your career? 

Jens Maae: “I had a really bad match – missing a penalty and missing a red card – “punishing’ the same team. It was a game-changer – and that is a referee’s biggest nightmare. Jounalists contacted me  – and I was pretty new in the top division. Luckily I had a lot of help from colleagues, mentors and so on. I was refereeing a couple of weeks after [that incident, Jan] and became stronger because of that.”

Goals for the future

It’s just 2018. What are your refereeing goals for this year? And how are you going to achieve them?

“The most imortant thing is to enjoy myself and second is getting to category 2 in UEFA. Will try to reach that by showing consistancy, being at your best every time you go on the pitch. Knowing mistakes will come, but doing my very best to minimize the odds for them to come.”

Check more about goal-setting for referees.

On the Uefa website you say something about the u17 Euro as well. “This is a very important tournament for all of us because we’re learning from the best observers in the world.” What are the best 3 tips that will make others a better referee too?

  1. Listen to the people that want to help you – even though you sometimes disagree
  2. “Go the extra mile” – there is no easy way to the top
  3. Be yourself and enjoy the level your are refeering at.

Physical training programme to improve refereeing in Madrid

José María García-Aranda EncinarA physical training programme is launched by the Referee Committee of the Madrid Football Association. They want to improve their local referees and prepare them for the increasing standards of refereeing. One of the goals is to “position Madrid’s men and women referees at the forefront of Spanish refereeing.”

I talk on my blog with José María García-Aranda Encinar. He is adviser to the President of the Referees’ Committee and to the President of the Football Federation.

Plan for specific demands of referees

Can tell me a bit more. What are the plans?

“The target is to extend the physical training programmes to all the referees’ categories, increasing the number of professionals in charge and the venues. And also to implement training plans for the referees and their specific demands on the field of play. A specialised plan will be developed for women referees and assistant referees.”

“My role has been to help in developing these general plans. They’re part of my duties as adviser to the President of the Referees’ Committee and the President of the Football Federation.”

Increase the quality of referees

Why is a good physical condition so important for referees?
“Nowadays, football matches in all the categories are played faster. The general level in men’s and women’s matches has increased the  demands for the referees. Accurate physical preparation helps the referees not only from the physical point of view but also with their
psychological performance.

Why do referees need such a programme?
“One of the main targets of the Madrid Referees’ Committee is to increase the quality of the referees and assistant referees (men and women). And to promote them to the top national and international tournaments. This programme will be an important part of the plans in order to reach these goals.”

José María García-Aranda Encinar talking about physical training programme.

José María García-Aranda Encinar training FIFA referees.

Physical training programme to improve performances

How will this help referees?
“Increasing the quality of their training and education will improve their performance and their opportunities to compete with referees from other regions in the “race” to the promotion.”

What do referees have to do now? 
These programmes require a higher compromise from the referees with their general preparation. Because they need to be in closer contact with their instructors. It also shows they need to be an active part of their own control and management.

Forefront of Spanish refereeing

The Referees Committee is seeking excellence in all the areas related to the referees’ performance. What are the other plans to improve the quality of refereeing in Madrid?
The new President of the Madrid Referees’ Committee, José Luis Lesma, with the full support of the new President of the Royal Football Federation of Madrid, Francisco Díez, seeks to position Madrid’s men and women referees at the forefront of Spanish refereeing. To reach this challenging target, new physical, technical and psychological programmes will be implemented with the support of the new technologies (educational platforms, applications, etc.).

3 tips for you

If you have to give three tips to referees about their physical performance. What tips would you give them? 

  1. First of all, your physical preparation will improve your general performance and image.
  2. You need an excellent physical preparation to control the demands of modern football matches.
  3. An accurate physical preparation will allow you to be in the right place at the right time. To show the best of yourself as a referee, you need to use this tool (physical preparation).

Want to read more about referees and fitness? Check out the fitness page on this blog.

Centre of Refereeing Excellence’s attendence by John Andrew Jones

The Centre of Refereeing Excellence is a great experience for John Andrew Jones, because it helps him a lot as referee. The Welsh (assistant) referee got his CORE diploma and gives you insights from his visit to the Uefa Headquarters.

Centre of Refereeing Excellence diploma for John Andrew Jones

Congratulations with getting your CORE 36 diploma. How important is that for you?

Thank you, Jan. It was an honour to represent Wales with Referee Rob Jenkins and Assistant Referee Aaron Wyn Jones as part of the CORE 36 team. I enjoyed my experience. And I would suggest that any referee who is lucky to be selected should take part if they wish to improve themselves for the better. After all of my hard work, I was proud of myself for achieving the UEFA diploma and having the opportunity to meet and shake hands with CORE Senior Coach David Elleray. After five months of hard work between the Introductory and Consolidation course, it was a relief to know that I had achieved the goals set for me and improved beyond what I expected of myself.

Requirements to get a Centre of Refereeing Excellence diploma

What are the requirements to pass the CORE training? 

The training is both physically and mentally demanding. The CORE course includes practical integrated training sessions and fitness specific sessions. The training sessions are filmed and analysis sessions take place inside a classroom.

Welsh referees after passing the YoYO test

Welsh referees after passing the YoYO test

In regards to the Yo Yo test, the expected level is 18.2, which both my Welsh colleagues and I achieved at the Introductory course. At the consolidation course, the Yo Yo was a maximal test where I achieved 20.5. The Fitness plans and guidance provided by Dr Werner Helsen became an essential part of my preparation and enabled me to get into the best possible shape for the consolidation course. We received monthly fitness feedback, which analysed the quality of our training recorded via a polar watch.

The start of his career

Back to the start of your career. Please introduce yourself as (assistant) referee.

“I am 22 year old Primary School Teacher from Mold, North Wales. I began refereeing at the age of 13 and passed my LOTG exam at the age of 14. My career started with refereeing youth football on a Saturday morning, whilst acting as an Assistant Referee in the men’s leagues during a Saturday afternoon.” John Andrew Jones reaches the Welsh Premier League Assistants Panel (Tier 1) and Huws Gray Cymru Alliance Referee’s list at the age of 19. He has officiated as both a Referee and Assistant Referee respectively, because he got both roles. “In 2014, I refereed the FAW Women’s Cup Final and in 2016, I was Assistant Referee for Welsh Premier League Cup Final. I was also selected to take part in exchange visits to the Republic of Ireland (2015) and Northern Ireland (2017) as an assistant referee.

Welsh refereeing team during game at CORE

Welsh refereeing team during game at CORE (John Andrew Jones on right)

Selection because of performances

Please tell me a bot more about your steps on the referee ladder so far.

I am currently in my fourth season as a Welsh Premier League Assistant Referee and Huws Gray Alliance Referee. Prior to this, I received guidance from the former Referee’s Officer, Rodger Gifford, who provided me with lots of support and assistance over the years and promoted me to the Welsh Premier League Assistants panel. More recently, the Referee’s Manager, Ray Ellingham, and Assistant Referee’s Coach, Eddie King, have been instrumental in helping me to further develop as a match official and have always been happy to provide coaching, support and guidance.

In regards to my selection to attend CORE, I believe that this was mainly down to my performances as an Assistant Referee at Welsh Premier League level. I also believe that my fitness levels and dedication to refereeing were a big factor in my selection.

Meeting new referees

What are your most memorable moments from CORE? 

One of the best experiences at CORE was meeting referees from all over Europe. I have made lifelong friends by attending the course and I am still in regular contact with most of them. The Coaches were fantastic and continually encouraged us to analyse our performances to help us improve. The most memorable moment was meeting the Italian FIFA Referee, Nicola Rizzoli. I was speechless when he walked into the UEFA HQ auditorium as he is one of my refereeing role models and I had watched him for years on the television. Listening to his presentation was inspiring and a once in the life time experience.

Understanding the role of AR’s

You’ve been to UEFA headquarters twice for the CORE program. What are the most important things you learn in these period?

The most important thing learned is the difference between the role of the Referee and Assistant Referee. I have developed a greater understanding of the Assistant Referee’s role and my responsibilities during the match.” CORE also helps John Andrew Jones to realise which lifestyle he needs to follow order to become an elite official. “Following the CORE course, I have made key changes to my diet, training regime and match preparation in order to achieve the best possible results for me.”

Attending classroom session at CORE

Attending classroom session at CORE

Conference for Elite Welsh match officials

What are the difference between CORE and help at national level? And how important is the continuous help from a national FA to improve?

It is important that national FA’s provide continuous help in order to inspire and guide others down a similar path. The coaching provided by the Welsh FA has been fantastic during my career as a match official. Every summer we attend a national Referee’s Conference in Cardiff for Wales’ Elite match officials.

This usually consists of:

  • Fitness testing (Body fat, Sprints, Endurance testing)
  • Practical training
  • Video clip analysis
  • Integrity training
  • Laws of the game focus
  • Guest speakers from other national associations

During these events, I catch up with colleagues and reflect on the events of the season. The National Referee’s Seminar enables us to bond as a group. We can share our experiences and analyse how we can improve our performance.” Jones gives three examples of help during CORE. These are ways to improve all aspects of the match official.”

1. Flexibility

Flexibility and stability assessments were conducted during the introductory course. That happens to identify any areas which could lead to potential injuries. A specific training plan is then provided to address areas which need urgent attention. At the consolidations course, the overall flexibility is reassessed to establish what progress has been made.

2. Fitness

All officials are provided with a polar watch. Referees are expected to upload their HR and GPS data up to the TopSportsLab programme for evaluation. This is monitored over a 5 month period between the introductory course and consolidation and regular monthly feedback is provided by the fitness coach.

3. Body Fat

Each official’s body fat and weight is measured at the introductory course and re assessed at the consolidation course. For example, my body fat during the introductory corset is 15:36% (Good). On my return to CORE, my body fat had reduced to 12.1% (Very Good) showing clear progress.

4. Technical Performance

“Each country is provided with a Referee and Assistant Referee coach, who provide monthly feedback to the trio. For CORE 36, our Referee coach was Nuno Castro (Portugal). The Assistant Referee coach was former World Cup Final Assistant Referee Leif Lindberg (Sweden). Our coaches provided technical feedback and analysed videos of domestic matches from Wales. This enabled us to constantly assess whether we were making the required progress needed to achieve our diploma.

Following each match at CORE, no formal feedback is given until a detailed self analysis form is completed by the official. This enables the Referee/Assistant referee to critically reflect on the strengths in their performance and areas for improvement.

This is a practice that I have continued on my return to Wales. I believe that by completing regular self assessments, my technical performance and confidence has  improved.”

Great take-away for us all: assess your own games, which is a great way to improve.

Welsh referees with their Centre of Refereeing Excellence diploma

Welsh referees with their Centre of Refereeing Excellence diploma

Future as referee

What do you expect for the future as referee?  

“Attending CORE was and is my greatest achievement in football, because it has motivated me to improve as a match official. I have had four fantastic seasons as an Assistant Referee in the Welsh Premier League. But I never imagined that I would have been selected to attend the programme.”

“In the near future, I would like to focus on my refereeing. And in particular the refereeing promotion pathway so I can eventually referee the middle in Welsh Premier League games. My ambition is to achieve a promotion to the Welsh Premier League Referee’s list. And I would love one day return to CORE as a Referee.”

Your goals

What are your goals as referee? Have you ever mapped them out? Here are some tips for you as referee to set your goals as referee.

Pieter Vink: “Looking back on a fantastic career as referee”

Pieter Vink’s alarm goes every morning at 5.30. Waking up, making sandwiches for lunch and off to work. The former top referee unfortunately had to quit his “wonderful career as pro referee”. During the first years of his refereein career he still worked as police officer, but the last ten years refereeing was is fulltime job. “If it rained in the morning, I could stay in bed a little longer and train later during the day”, he says during a meeting at the referee association COVS Leiden. “I can’t do that anymore. Nowadays, I’m a civil servant now, working in the municipal enforcement and supervision department as a coordinator.” He also appears as tv pundit on Ziggo Sport.

Pieter Vink gets certificate at COVS Leiden

Pieter Vink (right) gets certificate at COVS Leiden

The top referee looks back very positively on his career. “I don’t think I made the most of it, but I had a very nice career.” He climbed the international refereeing ranks very quickly. The Dutch ref goes from group 3 to Elite in only one and a half year. He is referee at the 2008 European Championships. He also officiates CL quarter finals like Juventus vs Real Madrid and Arsenal vs Liverpool. Adriaan Inia and Hans ten Hoove are part of his refereeing team. Two guys who have become friends for life. “A fantastic time. I’ve seen wonderful places. I visited all countries in Europe and was also active outside Europe. I even officiated the intense derby between Steau and Dinamo Bucharest.”

Most successful referee of Leiden RA

Back to the start. When Vink is sixteen he becomes a referee and he is now a member of Leiden RA for 34 years. During the meeting he gets a certificate, because he ended his professional career. Chairman Jan de Jong gives Vink a gift as “most successful referee of the Leiden referee association”.

Vink looks back on his career during the evening He thinks he would never reach the top level in the present time, because the selection process is different. “I’ve never been a runner and at amateur level I failed the fitness test. Nowadays, focus is on the physical part of refereeing. European referee boss Colina is a top athlete. Because he is, he expects the same from his pupils. Maybe we carry it on too far. You’ll see more and more ideal sons-in-law, fewer leaders. René Temmink, Mario van der Ende and me. We were more leaders than runners on the pitch.”

Selfie with Pieter Vink

Selfie with Pieter Vink

The referee from Noordwijk also prepares differently for his games than some of his colleagues. He knows the most important things, but doesn’t want to know everything. “That a player always turns to his left is not relevant for me. When I am on the pitch, I will notice what he does. I’ll use my senses. When I was at the top of the amateur level, I even weighed far above hundred kilograms. Then it’s important you can read the game.”

Comeback after an injury

On March 8th 2015, Vink officiated the game Feyenoord – NAC, but then disaster strikes. A hamstring injury. After a long rehabilitation process Vink is back on the football pitch on April 1st 2016. More than a year later, but he is back. On the KNVB website he says: “I was looking forward to this moment. The first whistle will be very special when I have entered the pitch”. His performance is good. “During the game I spot a red card from a different angle”, he says. A nice comeback. “After that I whistled then more games and even some beautiful ones, like the play-off final for an Europa League place.”

Unfortunately he pulls his hamstring again during a fitness test. On July 29th is his farewell game between Feyenoord and Real Sociedad, but he has to call it off due to his injury. “Feyenoord stadium De Kuip has always been the most beautiful one to whistle at. The atmosphere, the experience.” It does not influence his performance. “On that level it doesn’t matter, because otherwise you will not make it to the top as referee.”

Want to know what you can learn from Vink’s comeback? Check my previous blog with 3 important lessons when you get injured.

Comeback of Pieter Vink

Pieter Vink’s future

A role as video referee suits him and he loves it. It’s a project he has been involved in for years. He was the referee behind the screens during the first live test of the video referee in the game between Feyenoord and sc Heerenveen. With the current KNVB policies he will not become a video referee in The Netherlands. But he does not rule out a comeback in the world of football. “I think I can be important for referees or maybe at a club. Because of the many years of experiences I can be very valuable. But a challenging job at the local government or in politics is also an option.”

It is unlikely we will see Pieter make a return to the field of play, at grassroots level or otherwise. “And definitely not as a referee. I’d just be afraid I’d turn into a caricature of myself, behave like a cock of the walk. Time to call it a day. I had a wonderful career.”

PS: Want to know what you can learn from Vink’s comeback? Check my previous blog with 3 important lessons when you get injured.

 

Mika Lamppu: learning a lot from other refs during u17 tournament

Mika Lamppu from Finland gets appointed for the u17 European Championship in 2017, but has never worked with the center referee before. He shares his experiences of the tournament and how important it is to build a relation with referees outside the games while abroad for a tournament. “Without chemistry the team can’t work to it’s full potential.”

Mika, congratulations with your appointment for the u17 European Championship earlier this year. How did you experience the tournament?
Mika Lamppu: “The tournament was a great experience. It seems to be true that final tournaments have their own atmosphere. It’s a big stage for the players and the teams are playing for the trophy. Especially, in the beginning you could see players being nervous, but the same time giving the best they got – all the time.”

Assistant referee Mika Lamppu. Photo by: Olli Jantunen.

Assistant referee Mika Lamppu. Photo by: Olli Jantunen.

“I think it was the same for us, the referees, even though we were all much older than the players. It took the first match to get over the nervousness. After that you get used to everything going around you and you can prepare for the upcoming days and matches with ease. Like for the players, every match was important to us.”

Sharing experiences

A few Finnish colleagues went to this tournament as well. 2007 assistant-referee Jan-Peter Aravirta, 2009 assistant-referee Jonas Turunen, 2010 referee Antti Munukka, 2012 referee Mattias Gestranius, 2015 assistant referee Ville Koskiniemi and 2016 referee Ville Nevalainen. Did you talk with them about the preparation for such a final stage tournament? 
Mika Lamppu: “I exchanged some words with all of them before and during the tournament. The best tips came from the duo of the veteran assistant referees, Mr Turunen and Aravirta, who told me to be myself. No magic tricks were needed – I only had to do the same performance that I’ve done so many times in Finland. I found it very important to have the opportunity to keep in touch with the guys during the three weeks and share my feelings to them. It helped me a lot.”

You got appointed for the final of the tournament between Spain and England. What does a day of a tournament final look like for referees?
Mika Lamppu: “In the end, the day of the tournament final doesn’t differ much from the normal matches. You do the physical training a day before, you have your pre-match discussion and a lunch with your team on the match day. Of course you need to concentrate on the match. Still, the day before the kick-off is quite long, so you want to have a short stroll outside or do something that gives you something else to think about. It keeps you fresh and the extra tension – that comes from the upcoming match – stays at bay. The biggest difference between other matches is the hype going around the stadium.”

Learning from other referees

In the final you worked with Jens Maae (Denmark) and Aleksey Vorontsov (Russia), but you were not a trio the whole time during the tournament. How is it to cooperate with officials from different countries? 
Mika Lamppu: “The fact that every referee came from a different country brought us challenges during the tournament. The communication between the referee team members during the match has to be simple. We also need to discuss it thoroughly in the pre-match briefing. Also, refereeing is a bit different in every country which made us to give attention even to little details.

“But in the end, without chemistry the team can’t work with their full potential. As a assistant, you need to be aware what kind of persons the others are and what they think about football. During the tournament you needed to build the chemistry also outside the field of play and the formal daily schedule. For example, the final was my first match with mr. Maae, but we managed to build a good cooperation thanks to spending much time together during the weeks.”

Games with refs you don’t know

Refereeing with people from different countries probably gives you nice insights in their way of preparing and officiating. What are the best things you learned from them?
Mika Lamppu: “Getting prepared for the matches with unknown referees reminded me how crucial it is to an assistant referee to be on the field of play for the referee and manage the match the way he wants. There’s no place for going solo for the assistant referee. Of course you need to concentrate on your own performance too, but the aim is to succeed as a team, and the first step towards that aim is to help the referee to have a great match. This reminder was the best thing every referee thought me in the tournament.

“I tried to learn from the little things the referees did before the matches. I tried to study the nuances of the Cypriot and Greek music in the locker room. It was also interesting to see how many cups of tea the Welsh need before the match during the day. The number seems to vary between 9 and 13.”

Back to the start of your career. How did you start as referee? 
Mika Lamppu: “I started refereeing in 2001 when I was thirteen years old. My dad – who was a 2nd division referee when he retired – got me into refereeing. I had already been playing football for years so it was quite natural to start this hobby. Back then I lived in a small town where referees were needed, so I got lots of matches under my belt every year. That way I got also pocket money. I guess that’s a common reason why young girls and boys start refereeing.”

Concentrate on refereeing

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?
Mika Lamppu: “Actually I’ve never even thought about quitting this hobby. After I had decided to stop playing football and concentrate on refereeing (I was 20 back then), I’ve been fully committed to being a better referee and make a career out of it. I just love to be part of the sport and the matches.”

What’s the hardest challenge/problem during your career?
Mika Lamppu: “I don’t know if it’s the hardest, but it’s sure one I remember. In my very early career as an assistant referee I tried also to develop as a referee. It took me a one full year to realize that my personality fits much better to be an assistant than a referee. It was hard to accept at first, but realizing that has definitely made me a better assistant referee.”

Mika Lamppu’s CL debut

You were a match official in the game between Víkungur and FH Hafnarfjörður in the Champions League qualifiers in the 2017 summer. How was your debut in that tournament?
Mika Lamppu: “I took the match as an any other match I’ve had since I got my FIFA badge. I found the atmosphere in the stadium nice, though. It was obvious, that the match was important for the people who live on that island. Also, the visiting team coming from Iceland gave a twist for the match.”

What do you expect for the rest of this season?
Mika Lamppu: “I know I’m still very young as an assistant referee. I don’t want to try to take too big steps at a time. I really don’t have a hurry getting to bigger matches. My expectations for the rest of the season are to improve as an assistant referee and keep building a trustworthy relationship with my referees. The thing is to be patient.”

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee?
Mika Lamppu: “Be courageous, be confident and stay calm.”

 

Ieva Ramanauskienė about the biggest challenge in her career

Ieva Ramanauskienė was one of the assistant referees during the final at 2017’s Uefa Women’s u17 final tournament. That was about one year after she gave birth do her daughter. The biggest challenge in her career was her pregnancy and coming back top fit. She talks about her final tournament in 2017 and the challenges in her career in an interview on Dutch Referee Blog.

Ieva Ramanauskiene (assistant referee on right) at Women's Euro under 17 final

A great feeling for an AR

You’ve been appointed for Uefa’s Women u17 final tournament in 2017. How important is that for you?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “I am assistant referee from Vilnius. I participate in our country’s second men’s league mostly. Here we don’t have high-level women’s football, but from time to time I have some women/girls matches too. I am on the Fifa list from 2015 and started as referee in 2012. I can’t understand (and believe!) that I could referee in final tournament in such a short time. It’s an amazing feeling, it’s a big responsibility and experience.”

How do you prepare for final tournaments like this?

Ieva Ramanauskienė: “At the end of April in 2016 our our daughter is born. One week after that I started to get back to my earlier physical condition. I lost 15 kilos! It was really hard to to run, to sprint, everything. But day by day I became stronger. After two months I had my first international tournament. Later that year, two more. Usually in Lithuania we have two fitness tests per year. After my daughters birth I had seven in  thirteen months! So that means automatically concentrating all the time on being as active as possible as my little baby let me. And I didn’t have any system of training. I trained in those days when I had slept well.”

Assistant refereee Ieva Ramanauskine

Ieva Ramanauskine going to the final

During the tournament you got appointed 5 games, including the final between Germany and Spain. Congratulations! How did you experience the tournament?

Ieva Ramanauskienė: “Thank you! My first and the last match was Germany against Spain. And it were both different matches for me, as assistant referee, of course for the teams and even for spectators. The tournament went very well. Our referees group, our physical trainers and other stuff were really great. With some of them I have spent seventeen days. We had training sessions every day, we had meetings , we discussed about rules, about life, about everything. It was really amazing time with great people in such a big football event. ”

On the Uefa website, Julia-Stefanie Baier, who officiated the final says: “At the moment, what matters to me is that I am gaining experience internationally as a referee, step by step, progressing and establishing myself.” And she also talks about the important role national associations have in helping their referees. How important is the Lithuanian Football Association for you?

Ieva Ramanauskienė: “Lithuanian football referees association supports me. I can call them any moment and ask about anything. After my baby’s birth they gave me the opportunity to come back to refereeing very soon. They always solve any problem. Lithuanian referees also have a fitness coach. He shares a lot of useful information with us and prepares our training programmes. We have a lot of possibilities, but of course you need to put in your own hard work, a lot of training. We need to improve our lowest skills by ourselves. If you really want – there is nothing impossible.”

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by V. Knyzelis.

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by V. Knyzelis.

During the tournament in the Czech Republic you’ve talked with many colleagues. How is refereeing in your country compared to other countries?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “The colleagues I met in the tournament are very good. It’s a pleasure to be with people who know where they are and for what reason. They are refereeing for many years, usually in women’s leagues and in third or fourth men’s league. For example, Portugal, Italy are football countries. There they all play football and of course the level of it is higher than in Lithuania. In these countries, female referees have advantage because of refereeing higher level women matches. In Lithuania mostly Fifa referees get appointments for men’s matches. From the other point of view – it is also advantage. So, every country has something better and something to improve.”

Eye laser correction for referee career

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “I was a football player before I started as a referee. Football was everywhere and all the time in my life. I like watching, playing and now refereeing. One male referee said: ‘Ieva, you are always on or near the pitch, you need to try refereeing’. My first  course was in 2012. But I was still playing, so it was difficult to choose to be a referee or player. Then I chose playing.”

“But in 2014, after I finished university and found a job, I decided to start refereeing seriously. I and liked it! In 2015 I already was on Fifa list and it was a big stimulation to train and learn more and more. And it was the reason of my eyes laser correction. I hadn’t good sight from childhood, so it was a very important decision for me.”

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by Ieva Markunaite

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by Ieva Markunaite

What do you like about refereeing so much?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “I work in the police system. I like discipline, rules and laws. And I like football. Football is always different. I admire this ‘mix’ me a lot.”

Pregnancy – her hardest challenge so far

What’s the hardest personal challenge/problem you faced during your career? And how did you solve it?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “The biggest challenge was pregnancy. I was refereeing till four months of pregnancy in local matches and in third month of pregnancy I was in a tournament abroad. It was interesting period of my life. After my daughter’s birth it was also difficult, but this time because of my physical condition. Later on it was difficult to leave my daughter and go to the tournaments. I was breastfeeding till she was 1 year old, till this final tournament. When my daughter was six months I was in a qualification round in Montenegro, and I needed to work there while continuing breastfeeding. It was hard, but it was worth it. It’s just a life. Sometimes you just need to choose and accept a situation.”

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

  1. You need to improve by yourself. Other people can help, but they don’t do your job.
  2. Be better than you were yesterday – both as referee and as person.
  3. Believe in yourself. Humans can make a miracle come true.

Donatas Rumšas changes jobs to get more time for refereeing

2017 is a great year for Donatas Rumšas so far. The Lithuanian referee gets great news earlier this year. He will go to the u17 European Championships in Croatia. “For me it was a big suprise to be selected”. Donatas Rumšas shares his experiences from this tournament. Plus he also talks about something that possibly is the best step in his refereeing career. He changes his job to have more time available for refereeing.

Congratulations with your appointment for the u17 European Championship earlier this year. How did you experience the tournament?

The impressions from the tournament was very good. We spent there  almost 3 weeks with the referees from all over the Europe. There we had a lot of training sessions, matches to referee and game analysis. It was very nice to share experiences with colleagues from other countries. I can say that those three weeks gave me a lot of as referee and as a person. It was a busy month but I enjoyed the time in Croatia.

Every referee can improve

What did you do to reach the tournament?

To be honest what I did exactly to get there I don’t know.  I had a quite good season before the tournament and I got an invitation for the U-17 final tournament in Croatia. For me it was a big suprise. I did not expect this appointment. I train 5-6 times per week. There are a lot of things to improve for every referee, but now I focus on management of players. And I also work on my personality.

Referee Donatas Rumšas

Referee Donatas Rumšas. Photo provided by referee.

You’ve officiated 4 games, including a quarter final. You’ve worked with assistant referees from Northern Ireland, Russia, Armenia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Wales, Kazakhstan and Israel. How is it to work with a different team for all matches? 

It was very interesting experience for me, because in Lithuania I used to work with more or less the same assistants. In this tournament all the referees and assistant referees have a lot of expierence, so to work with them was a pleasure for me. I have prepared the standard pre-match discussion for this tournament. In this talk are all the main things what I expect from my team.

Refereeing with people from different countries probably gives you nice insights in their way of preparing and officiating. What are the best things you learned from them?

For me the best thing was that I had an opportunity to see how different referees prepare for the game. I found how accurately they are assessing their games, so I will try to implement this component for myself.

How Donatas Rumšas became a referee

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing? 

I started to referee in 2006. I was playing in local city youth team and my coach asked me if I want to try to referee few games. From the first game I like it and till now I am enjoying refereeing very much.

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?

I like refereeing so much because every game is a different. You never know what will happen in your next match and you have to try to do the best you can. Till now I have never thought about quitting refereeing.

Get more time for refereeing

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

The hardest problem for me was to synchronize the job and the refereeing about five years ago. I had to work long hours in that job and quality of refereeing started to decrease. So I left from that job and found another one, which let me spend more time for refereeing.

You’re already in the middle of the season. Is that an advantage for you now the Europa League starts again? (and how difficult is it to referee a game when there’s no season in your country?)

I think it is a great advantage for us because we have a lot of games and we are prepared well. But it is also a disadvantage for the second part of the Europe’s season because we are at the preparation stage at that time. So it is very hard to referee.

What do you expect for the rest of this season? 

This year is also quite good for me, so it would be very nice to keep the high level of refereeing till the end of the season. I am working day by day to be better than I was yesterday and I think there is no soldier who don’t want to be a general.

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

  1. Believe in yourself – you are a good referee;
  2. Work hard – that is necessary to achieve your goals;
  3. Be patient – nothing happens in one day.