Jerome Damon was referee at the World Cup in 2010 in his country: South Africa. Just one year later he did not pass the fitness test for international referees. Damon talks about his injury, refereeing in South Africa and more in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog.
How did you become a referee?
“The first thing that I should be sharing with you is that I never played competitive football in my life. I used to tag along with my friends to the field to be the supporter or water-boy until one day the appointed referee did not honour his appointment. They then approached me to referee – I agreed on condition that they understood that I was not a referee. I enjoyed it so much and have not stopped since that time back in 1988.”
What was your best experience?
“It is very difficult to pinpoint just one experience. Every match for me has had a unique special memory. Maybe one day when I sit down to pen my thoughts, a special one would surface, but for now… it cannot be narrowed down to one.”
You’re not on the international list any more. Why?
“The 2010 World Cup marked almost eight years of continuous travel and intensive training. In July of 2011, I ran the fitness in Johannesburg and just did not have any gas left in the tank, eventhough I was physically ready, I was mentally drained and so I just walked off the track after five laps of the High Intensity test. In September I went for the retest in Malawi where we ran on a sand track – on lap 2 I felt a sharp pain in the left hamstring. I immediately stopped and when I got home the physio confirmed what I had thought – a torn hamstring. That put me out of the International list for 2012.”
“In 2012, during the same test in Johannesburg for the 2013 International list, the same hamstring injury flared up again. I only started our domestic season in September of 2012 after that injury. As we speak in this interview, I am still weighing up my options of my international future.”
What are your refereeing goals now you already officiated at a World Cup?
“As I have indicated before, I am still weighing up all my options as I am still actively refereeing in South Africa. I however, do see myself active in serving the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA at administrative level in the refereeing department – instructor, referee’s inspector, match commissioner.” And with a laugh. “Maybe even Referees Committee level – if they need me.”
How would you describe refereeing in Africa?
“The Elite Referees in Africa are on par with the rest of the world (I experienced that at both World Cups 2006/10), but the World does not see African match officials in that light. That is a shame – this was made very clear when in 2005 I officiated a WC 2006 Qualifier match in Croatia (Croatia v Iceland). I have it on good authority that both teams wanted to know why FIFA appointed African match officials, asking if if European officials were not good enough.”
And how is refereeing in South Africa compared to refereeing in other continents or maybe even other African countries?
“As I have mentioned before, I think we can hold our own compared to the best on the field of play, however, we still have a long way to go administratively. The biggest difference between South-Africa and the rest of the World is that in most countries, refereeing is headed towards a professional structure – in SA all of our match officials officiating in our highest league are amateurs; most have day jobs whilst a large majority are unemployed.”
“We are however headed in the right direction – just recently South African Football Association and the PSL, our professional league, came to an agreement that the next step for refeereing is a professional structure.”
“In Africa – maybe like in the rest of the world – referees are the last people National Associations take care of. We are expected to deliver a top class performance week-in-and-week-out, often at our own costs.”