Golden medal for the referees at the World Cup

Unlike goalies and the Jabulani ball, the referees are going unnoticed at the World Cup.

Written by Valdir Bicudo, a befriended Brazilian journalist and referee commentator at Parana Online. It’s his round-up after the first round at this World Cup.

Logo of Bicudo's blog De olho no apito

In an interview with Fifa spokesman Nicolaz Maingot last Tuesday, when he traveled between Pretoria and Johannesburg, told that the performance of referees and assistants in the early matches of World Cup in South Africa were highly impressive.

According to Maingot, Fifa, the entity that handles the football on the planet, has done efforts as never showed before to improve arbitration at the World Cup. For example the implementation of fixed arbitration trios from the same country, who are talking the same language and, thus, decreasing misconceptions within the field.

Fifa is proud because there are no problems with the performance of the officials, said the spokesman, especially because no one’s talking about the officials and everything is going smoothly.

Unlike the goalkeepers, who are failing in some games, and the Jabulani (the name of the ball in the World Cup, vb), which is said to have severe restrictions. But until the present moment the referees are accepted, despite they’ve already given four red cards, which means a average of 0.4 cards per game.

Noting the majority of matches this World Cup Soccer, I found that a several factors were essential for the optimal development of the referees. Their self-control reaches perfection and that helps a lot with making decisions on the field in the different situations during the matches.

I have noticed that both referees and assistants are keeping a grip on themselves. Not that long ago I noticed a relentless attitude when they officiated in Fifa competitions. This change is the work of Werner Helsen, a professor at the University Louvre (Belgium) who trained the referees from Fifa and Uefa.

In the case of assistants, who are delegated the very difficult task to mark the obstruction, I must say they make good calls. In addition to that, I’d like to stress that the teamwork, the positioning of the assistants and the integration among the members of the refereeing team is very good. These results are even more promising for the second stage of the world, with a marked increase in the quality of refereeing ..

What also should be noted is the magnificent work done by the Spanish professor Jose Maria Garcia Aranda, who’s responsible for technical preparation of the arbitration, and furthermore for his influence in displaying representative trio’s in a competition with the magnitude of a World Cup.

PS: Ravshan Irmatov (Fifa-Uzbekistan) and Carlos Eugenio Simon (Fifa-Brazil) showed, until the beginning of the second inning, the best performance in decision-making in the field of play. The hit rate of both exceeded 93% in the games that they worked.

This guest blog is translated from Portugese. Mistranslations are my bad, but you can find the original text on Bicudo’s blog. I’m very happy we could exchange copy for our blogs. If you have a good idea for a guest blog, you are more than welcome.

World Cup referees are important for New Zealand

Two head referees from the same country at the same World Cup tournament is quite unique. This year there are three countries which provide more than one refereeing team: Uruguay (Larrionda and Vazquez), Mexico (Archundia and Rodriguez) and New Zealand (Hester and O’Leary).

The situation for the latter country is a more exceptional. There was never a referee from the New Zealand leading a match. Michael Hester from Auckland (NZ) had the premiere in last week’s World Cup match between South Korea and Greece. The Dutch Referee blog contacted Ken Wallace, the New Zealand Football Referee Development Officer. In this interview he talks about about refereeing in New Zealand and the importances of having two national referees at this World Cup.

At the World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2002 assistant referee Paul Smith was the first and only match official from New Zealand who ever officiated at a global tournament. Michael Hester was the first Kiwi who was in full charge of a game at such a tournament. Peter O’Leary has been only a fourth official so far. How important is it for New Zealand that two referees represent the country at the World Cup?

Wallace: “It is important for all countries as it shows there is a clear pathway that leads from local parks to the biggest football tournament in the world. Potential recruits and current referees can see on tv the guys they know or can relate to. Michael Hester and Peter O’Leary have been excellent role models and have accepted their responsibility to promote football and refereeing in NZ.”

How did Michael Hester perform in last week’s match between South Korea and Greece?

“Michael Hester and his team did well. The game was easy, fair and safe and the result was determined by the players.”

Some media in Europe dislike referees who are not from Europe or South America. They say Asian, African en Oceanian referees are not good enough, because they never officiated under such a high pressure as in for example the Champions League. Do you agree with that?

“Many games have pressure but all games are played on a pitch with the same markings, according to the same laws and with 22 legs on one team and 22 legs on the other. All referees make incorrect decisions and occasionally have poor games whether or not they are refereeing in the Champions League, have refereed in the Champions League or will never referee in that competition.”

Is there any difference between the NZ referees and for example the European referees in training style or preparation?

“The game in NZ is amateur and all referees have other jobs. Referee development and training takes place at night after work or at the weekend. The FIFA Development Programme for the 2010 World Cup has been an excellent programme and has ensured that all the World Cup candidates have been able to get the same coaching and development activities.”

What’s the future of NZ refereeing?

“Referee development is simply about more and better. We want more referees and we want to make our existing cohort better. FIFA’s development programmes have been important in getting greater world-wide consistency and uniformity in the interpretation and application of the Laws of the Game. This has helped referees and given greater certainty to players and coaches.”

In Holland we’ve always problems of getting referees for all matches. Are there enough people interested in a refereeing career in your country?

“We need more referees.”

The New Zealand referees have appointments as 4th officials in the matches 17-24 at this World Cup. Hester will assist in the match between England and Algeria and O’Leary in the game France-Mexico. The appointments for the final matches in the group stages will follow next week.

Harkam is already preparing for next season

These days all soccer fans are mainly focused on the World Cup in South Africa. The latest results are hot topics at the coffee machine at the office. None is interested in next season in their national competition.

Alexander Harkam in Austrian Bundesliga. Photo provided by referee

But preparation had already started. Referee Alexander Harkam’s training sessions started at June 10. “I didn’t really have a break, because the teams between the third and the last league stopped on the 12th of June.”

This is part 2 of an interview with Alexander Harkam. You can read part 1 in an previous post on the Dutch Referee blog.

Harkam: “I really hope that the next season will be as successful as the last.” The 28-year-old referee from Graz promoted in 2009 to the highest level in his country, the Austrian Bundesliga. He’s very satisfied with his first full season as a top class referee. And he has set himself a goal in his refereeing career. “Maybe there’s a possibility to be a Fifa referee in the next time.”

“We will see what will happens. It’s not possible to plan a career. You must have a little luck sometimes. But I will give the best every match. I’m 28 now, so there are 17 years left to become a Fifa referee (age limit for international referees is 45, jth). That’s still a long time for me.”

After the end of the season Harkam had to admit he was getting really tired because of the number of matches he officiated. Have a look at his match statistics in the highest Austrian leagues in the table below.

Table: Alexander Harkam’s stats of last season

League Matches Yellow cards 2nd yellow Red cards
Bundesliga 9 32 1 1
Erste Liga 8 37 1 2
Cup 3 6 1 0


Although Harkam is not on the international list by Uefa, he’s got some experiences abroad. “The rules mention that you can be a fourth official for international matches if you are a referee in the top division.” That explains his role as fourth official in the World Cup preparation match between England and Japan, as mentioned in part 1 of this interview.

Alexander Harkam

Alexander Harkam in action. Photo provided by referee

But there’s more: “I was two times fourth official in the European Championship qualification U21. And abroad? A month ago I was referee in Italy between the U20 match from Italy against Switzerland. And I officiated once in Scotland, at the homeless World Cup 2005.”

Harkam watches the World Cup matches like all the other matches. “I look at the art of playing soccer, the style of refereeing, atmosphere around the pitch, and so on…” Before the World Cup has started he talked about the referees at the World Cup. “In my opinion the European referees are the best in the world. Because I think the best players around the world are playing in Europe.”

“The referees there have a lot of hard matches to handle.” In his opinion there are not so much differences between the top leagues. “What I mean is that, for example in the Premier League, there are five or six clubs which play a very good football and only one of them will be the champion. The same for Italy, Spain, Germany, France and Holland. The referees in the rest of the world, don’t have the same pressure every match.”

Alexander Harkam has plenty of time to reach his goal of becoming a Fifa referee. During the World Cup he can see a glimpse of his refereeing dream, when the referees take charge of the matches in the second round of this tournament. In the meantime he is working hard to reach his goal. But is it all fitness tests and training sessions for him now? No, there’s also time for relaxing. “What I do? Massage, relax, go on holiday with my family, go hiking, biking, swimming and very often to the spa.”

During the season I’ll try to review Harkam’s season till that moment. A Dutch friend suggested me to do previews (and evaluations) of the referees in the matches of The Netherlands at this World Cup. If you have any suggestion about people I should interview (maybe it’s you), interesting subjects (and so on). Please comment or send an e-mail to

WC refs prepare in the luxury of hotel Kievits Kroon

Tomorrow starts an exciting month with the kick-off of the World Cup in South Africa at 4pm local time. All the teams are preparing for the their first match at the World Cup. They’ve to work under great pressure and have to cope with late injuries, even the referee teams.

The tension is high, maybe in particular for the referees, because everyone is ready to make a judgement. Last week the referees of the first matches were announced. They’re all looking forward to a great tournament, maybe refereeing the final as the cherry on the cake. But how do they prepare for their matches? Krista North, Sales & Marketing manager of hotel Kievits Kroon, tells about the facilities and security in the referee hotel.

Krista North

Krista North (middle) after winning an AA Award for their hotel Kievits Kroon Photo provided by hotel

Please introduce yourself to the readers of the Dutch Referee blog.
I am the Sales & Marketing Manager for Kievits Kroon and in this position responsible for all things related to these areas, these include the sales for all departments in the hotel, conference rooms, bedrooms, spa and restaurants, and I have been involved in the selection and negotiation process with Match and FIFA for the referees to come to Kievits Kroon.

Who’s your favourite referee?
“I can’t say we have a favourite referee, all the referees are extremely nice and friendly to everyone at the hotel. They also seem to be such a close group, they get on very well with each other.”

How does it feel to have such a special guests in your hotel?
“This is a very special group of guests for Kievits Kroon. We had the pleasure in having them to the stay also in 2009 for the Confederations Cup and have found that the referees and FIFA are extremely pleasant guests to have staying with us. We feel we are involved in a small way in the enormous organisation that is the World Cup and have to make sure that all our guests are comfortable and enjoy their time on the estate, in order for them to perform their best during the tournament.”

Estate entrance of hotel Kievits Kroon Photo provided by hotel

What security measures did you take to guarantee the referee’s safety?
“We did not take any extra security measures, as a standard we have electric fencing on the perimeters of the estate and our security guards patrol the estate. All visitors are always registered at the entrance to the estate and announced to the person they are visiting on the estate. All other additional security measures have been implemented by the South African Police Services (SAPS).

What makes Kievits Kroon a good living for the referees during their time in South Africa?
“Kievits Kroon is located just outside of Pretoria in the countryside, and a secure and private home away from home for the referees. Our proximity is still within driving distance from all stadia in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenburg and easy driving distance to the airport for the trip to the other stadia in South Africa. We are also located in the Highveld, which means an altitude of 1600m above sea level and this is also beneficial for any sports person. Some of the reasons of FIFA to choose Kievits Kroon as the venue for the referees was the fact that they have booked the estate exclusively, all bedrooms are of a very high standard, the main restaurant offers space for the whole group at one time, and our conference rooms work well for the groups as office space.”

How do you help referees in their match preparation?
“Our menus in the restaurants for the meals did not have to be changed very much, we offer many options on the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it is up to the referee to make his choice for the meals, it depends on their requirements. We have a lot of space and gardens on the estate which are used for relaxation mostly, training facilities are in a different location. We have a health spa on the estate which has award winning thermae facilities (sauna, steam room, jacuzzi’s, Swiss showers and indoor heated pool) which the referees like to spend time in.”

“I would say our contribution to the preparation of the referees for the matches is to make sure that their home away from home is very comfortable and relaxing.”

Watch hotel Kievits Kroon on Google Streetview.

World Cup referees announced for first matches

Fifa confirmed that Ravshan Irmatov will be the referee of the opening at the World Cup between South Africa and Mexico. Referee Pozo from Chile is injured and has been replaced.

See the revised list below:

Match Referee (Country)
South Africa – Mexico Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Uruguay – France Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)
Argentina – Nigeria Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Korea – Greece Michael Hester (New Zealand)
England – USA Carlos Simon (Brazil)
Algeria – Slovenia Carlos Alberto Batres (Chile) *See Update 2 below
Germany – Australia Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)
Serbia – Ghana Hector Baldassi (Argentina)
Netherlands – Denmark Stephane Lannoy (France)
Japan – Cameroon Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal)
Italy – Paraguay Benito Archundia (Mexico)
New Zealand – Slovakia Jerome Damon (South Africa)
Ivory Coast – Portugal Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)
Brazil – Republic Korea Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
Honduras – Chile Eddy Maillet (Seychelles)
Spain – Switzerland Howard Webb (England)

Update: Fifa has published a pdf-file with more details about the assistants and the matches on it’s website.

*Update 2: Press announcement by Fifa:

Due to an injury of the Referee POZO QUINTEROS Pablo (CHI) the trio from Chile will have to be replaced by the following trio:

Referee: BATRES Carlos Alberto (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: LEAL Leonel (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: PASTRANA Carlos (HON)

Match: GER – AUS, Match Date: 13.06.2010, Match No. 7

The Fourth Official of this match will be HANSSON Martin (SWE).

Pretoria, 8 June 2010
FIFA Refereeing Department