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

Source: worldfootball.net

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 dutchreferee@gmail.com.

The busy life of an Austrian Bundesliga referee

100 matches, 60 training sessions, four running tests, four rules of football tests, four meetings in the top league, eight meetings for our regional competitions and about 30 nightshifts in my job as a prison officer. That’s the busy life of 28-year-old Alexander Harkam, a talented Austrian Bundesliga referee.

This is part 1 of an interview with Alexander Harkam. Part two is published exclusively on the Dutch Referee blog.

Alexander Harkam in action. Photo provided by referee

“As you see, my wife is the football. No joke. I really love my wife and my two daughters. It is very important that you have a family. But you need some time-outs”, says Harkam. Spending so much time on refereeing resulted in a promotion to the Austrian top league as a referee in 2009, three years after he became an assistant on the highest level.

His refereeing career started after he recognized his dream of becoming a player at professional soccer could not be realised. “It was always my dream to play football in the top league. When I was 18 I broke my shoulder in a match. I missed a half year of training and match exercises.”

“So I began to think about my future, and in the company where I worked, a friend asked me why I don’t want to be a referee. I’m young, I like football, there are good chances to go up, and in Styria (a state of Austria where Harkam lives, jth) are not so much referees as they need.”

“I asked my wife what she thought about, and she told me that in her opinion I’ve no chance to become a football player in the top league, but it could be as a referee. In the beginning I played football and refereed matches. But that was to much for me.” He gave up his career as a player.

Harmkam’s refereeing career started in 2001, when he was only 19 years old, in the city of Graz. And what started with a hobby became more and more serious, which resulted in the number of 100 (hundred) matches last year.

Now the season’s over, will he take some rest? “I’ll have some massage, relax, go on holiday with my family, go hiking, biking, swimming and very often to the spa.” That seems like busy times for a referee who’s recovering from a busy scheme and needs to prepare for next season. “I combine all kind of sports with the actueal weather situation.”

“And I go by bike to work everyday. The distance is about five kilometres per drive. Sometimes I go hiking with my family. We’ve a lot of mountains near my hometown. It’s fantastic to shut down. No mobile phone, no stress, no traffic, no fog, and so on …”

The Austrian referee is a national referee now, but is still involved with refereeing in his home state Styria. “Here we have six leagues under the two top leagues. This year I had about thirty matches since January. That’s too much, but we don’t have enough referees.”

One of Harkam’s goals is to be on the international referee list. “But I’ll need a little luck.” But the official already has some international experiences. He was fourth official in England’s World Cup preparation match against Japan. “The England match was easy to handle. No cautions, no unsporting behaviour. Only a penalty kick because of hands playing.”

See the official highlights of this match on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNoxeA2Yq50

In the next part of the interview with Alexander Harkam he’ll tell more about his future plans, the best referees in the world and the way he watches all World Cup matches.