Mark Geiger and his exciting lifestyle as professional referee

Mark Geiger has been named MLS referee of the year 2014. He was number one for players, clubs and media, MLS announced. Number 2 and 3 were Jair Marrufo and Alan Kelly. Mark Geiger will also referee the 2014 MLS final.

2014 was a great year for Mark Geiger. The best moment maybe is 2:24 am on 15th of January 2014. At that moment an e-mail was sent to Mark Geiger from Uefa Headquarters with the news that he’d be a referee at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “I woke up to an email and a couple of text messages from friends. An outstanding experience just to wake up and see that email”, Geiger told AP.

Refereeing for pocket money

At the age of 13, Mark Geiger became a football referee. The reason? He needed some pocket money and this was a far better way of getting some extra bucks than the other kids. It took him 15 years from 1988 to become a National Referee in 2003. Since 2014 he has been officiating in Major League Soccer. After 4 years on the higest national level he became a Fifa referee.

Mark Geiger, Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher.  Photo published with courtesy of Professional Soccer Referee Association (PSRA)

Mark Geiger, Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher. Photo published with courtesy of Professional Soccer Referee Association (PSRA)

After the 2010 World CUp Fifa boss Sepp Blatter announced that he doesn’t want part-time referees anymore. “You can’t have non-professional referees in professional football”, Blatter said. Not everybody changed his career, Björn Kuipers is for example a supermarket owner, but Geiger did. On January 2013, he made refereeing in Major League Soccer his full-time job. “It was It was something I would have to do”, he told on the website of Lacey Township High School, the school he was a math teacher at. “It’s a new opportunity. It’s going to be a new lifestyle. It’s exciting.”

The moment was right for him. “Timingwise, it couldn’t have been more perfect,” he said. “I’ve seen improvements in myself. I don’t have that stress while I’m at the tournament worrying about what my students are doing back home.”

Mark Geiger’s international career

After Geiger became an international referee, he got some big games. During 2011’s u20 World Cup he got 2 group stage matches, a last 16 match and finnaly the final between Brazil in Portugal. His team back then was the same as the assistants he’ll go to Brazil with now: American assistant referee Mark Hurd and Canadian assistant referee Joe Fletcher.

In 2011 he also became MLS referee of the year. In 2012 Geiger went to the London Olympics as referee and in 2013 he got appointed for the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup. Mark Geiger could be come the first American referee who officiates a match beyond the group stage.

“If you don’t do well there, the tournament is done,” Geiger said. “We need to focus on that first game wholeheartedly, make sure we nail that and get it right.”

Want to see more of how Mark Geiger prepares for matches? Check those video’s from Major League Soccer from 2011. He was then a teacher, so he has now more time for refereeing and preparatin, but video’s still worth watching.

Part 1 of MlS Major League documentary

Part 2 of MlS Major League documentary

Joel Aguilar always goes for the final

When a referee didn’t turn up Joel Aguilar from El Salvador had to pick up the whistle. “When I was asked to be the referee I said no at first because I liked playing and in fact had poor relations with referees because I got sent off every so often,” Aguilar said to Reuters.

Joel Aguilar - World Cup referee from El Salvador.

Joel Aguilar – World Cup referee from El Salvador. (Screenshot from interview on SNTV).

“All of us who love football wish the national team to go to the World Cup. Given the choice between the team and a referee, everyone would pick the team, but I’m proud to be able to take part representing El Salvador,” Aguilar told Reuters. He even told SNTV later that going to the World Cup would be “the ultimate fiesta”. It’s the second World Cup of the Salvodoran referee, but he hasn’t yet officiated a match at this level. In South Africa he was only a 4ht official.

Joel Aguilar, a 39-year-old teacher, almost didn’t go to the 2010 World Cup as reserve referee. Because Fifa had a dispute with the Salvadoran football association FESFUT because of “government interference” in the El Salvador’s football. “Furthermore, during the period of suspension, FESFUT will not be able to be represented in any regional or international competitions,” said the Fifa statement. “For example, the refereeing trio selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa will not be able to participate in this competition if FESFUT remains suspended.”

Referee of USA – Costa Rica

Another moment you could remember Aguilar from is the 2014’s World Cup qualifier between the USA and Costa Rica. Heavy snow blizzard covered the field in white. The Costa Rican Football Federation wanted the match to be replayed, but Fifa throw out their demand. See here the match conditions:

The conclusion on the website of Soccer Referees USA:
“Also, the safety of the players is crucial and of paramount importance. Somewhat surprisingly here, despite very difficult field conditions, both teams played a clean game and no serious foul play occurred. Moreover, it appeared that, after the referee stopped the game in the second half to evaluate the situation, both teams tried to persuade him to let the game continue. Still, Mr. Aguilar made a risky decision when he permitted the game to continue.” Please comment below if you’d have let play continue.

World Cup preparation

After the 2010 World Cup the carreer of Aguilar progressed rapidly. He refereed both 2011 and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals. This tournament is held every two years by national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

On the day that Fifa announced the World Cup referees the boss of Salvadoran referees, Luis Iraheta, announced that “it was an honour for the country” that Joel and his team were selected. “I can also tell you that Joel is the number one referee on the ConCaCaf list right now”, he proudly told.

Joel Aguilar finished the national season with the clash between Dragón and Isidro Metapán. “We take all the responsibility to be there to enjoy the game because it is a final, but we obviously take our responsibilities. But it is not easy to maintain the trust that the authorities always give you”, Aguilar said. “But you have to earn the trust of players, officials and press, and not just the authorities.

Aguilar is happy that he could officiate the national final. “I’m very happy , he said in EDH Deportes. “As referees you always want to officiate the final round of a competition”. With that spirit the Salvadoran referee moves to Brazil on Saturday 31st of May with his assistants Juan Francisco Zumba and William Torres will go to Brazil. Aguilar, who picked up the national flag to take it to Brazil, says just before he left to his second World Cup: “we want to uphold the name of El Salvador when we are in Brazil”.

Yuichi Nishimura can bring Asian refereeing to new heights

Yuichi Nishimura is a big contestant of becoming the first Asian World Cup final referee. The 42-year-old referee from Japan has already shown his skills during the 2010 World Cup with a quarter final and the appointment as 4th official in the final officiated by Howard Webb. A report of newspaper UzDaily wrote shortly after the tournament: “I cannot predict the future but I won’t be surprised if there was an Asian, whether from Japan, Malaysia or even Bhutan, who would one day become THE referee for the World Cup final. The sky is the limit for Asian judges on field. And the dedication is there for them to reach the pinnacle.”

Update: Fifa announced on 10th of June that Nishimura will be the referee who will referee the opening match between Brazil and Croatia.

Start of Nishimura’s career

Nishimura is one of the Asian World Cup referees. But how did it all begin for him? Nishimura was the coach of a youth team and in his opinion the referee ruined the dreams of his pupils by bad judgments. This inspired him to become a referee himself with the motto of thinking of the players first. He told Fifa once that “his biggest challenge on the pitch is to maintain positive motivation amongst the players”.

Nishimura became a Fifa referee in 2004 and only two years later he already refereed an Asian Champions League final between Al Qadisiya from Kuwait and Al Karama from Syria. One year later he officiated the Fifa u17 World Cup final in Korea.

Match-fixing

But that’s not the only foreign experience Nishimura gained. The Japanese match official was also invited to the 2008 Africa Cup in Ghana as only non-African, where he got three matches. And his most remarkable refereeing adventure maybe was in Poland. He officiated three matches in the Polish Ekstraklasa in 2008 as part of a referee exchange. After he landed they told him about match-fixing problems in the country. “But we were not there because of that affair”, Nishimura told Gazeta Wyborcza. “We are international referees, but we’ll never officiate competition matches in Europe and all experience will be usefull.” Nishimura continues the interview and tells why nobody will ever to buy him to manipulate a match. “In Japan, there is no corruption in the sport. I think it has to do with our culture and tradition. Such behavior will never be tolerated.”

Japanese courage

Integrity in sports is very important for the Japanese. Before moving to Poland he had heard about Tomasz Hajto, a player with foreign experience. “Yes, I also knew about the yellow cards he has collected”, Nishimura told. “And I also booked him today, but there was no alternative after such behavior. I had no other choice. I’m not prejudiced before the game to anyone.”

Nishimura was named best Asian referee in 2012 and as worked hard to be top fit at the 2014 World Cup. “It is an honor to be appointed for the World Cup, but it is hard to finish any World Cup match without any problems”, he keeps reservedly. “But I want to meet that challenge with courage and hope my decisions will be accepted by the teams involved in the games where I take charge.” That Japanese courage could bring Asian refereeing to new heights during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Read the interview with 2010’s Asian semi-final referee Ravshan Irmatov.

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