Mike Hester enjoys the priviledges of a top referee

World Cup Referee Mike Hester had a good 2010 with an invitation for the World Cup in South Africa. But that’s just the start. He’s set his target on refereeing during the 2014 tournament. And now in 2011, the road to that WC in Brazil has already started.

“It’s a realistic target”, says Mike Hester to the Dutch Referee Blog.

Hester during Columbia v  Switzerland - Semi Final 1 - FIFA U17 World up. Photo courtesy Mike Hester.

Hester during Columbia v Switzerland – Semi Final 1 – FIFA U17 World up. Photo courtesy Mike Hester.

“In refereeing, you are only as good as your next game. As a referee, you can only live one day at a time so it is important to keep working towards that next performance. Of course, there are many opportunities coming up over the next four years and the World Cup in 2014 is a realistic target for my team.”

“It will however depend on many factors – performance, fitness, health, professional demands, personal demands, availability and motivation – and many of these are still unclear. So for now, we are just living one day at a time and enjoying the priviledges this brings.”

Last December, Hester’s good year got a nice end for Michael Hester with the invitation for the World Cup for club teams. He refereed the 3rd place match between Internacional (Brazil) and Seongnam (South Korea), which ended in a 4-2 win by the Brazilians.

Hester: “I am very honoured to have been selected for the FIFA Club World Cup. It is a very important tournament in the International Football Calendar and to be selected is a great priviledge. My primary target is to do the best in my match by keeping the game safe, fair and enjoyable for all those involved.”

In the beginning of this year, Hester has also a good advice for every referee: “My advice to anyone that wants to go far in refereeing – never give up a chance to practise your craft. I firmly believe that there are no short cuts to success and investing thousands of hours in your passion is an important part of the recipe.”

Mike Hester quits playing and commits to refereeing

“I did my first referees course in 1994 at the age of 22 because I was interested in this part of the game”, says Michael Hester. “I continued playing for a few years and refereed some low level matches for my club and some futsal in my spare time. At the age of 28, I decided to commit to refereeing full time and started in my local leagues in 2001.”

Hester: “The Navy have been fantastic in allowing me to balance some meaningful but flexible military roles whilst refereeing at an elite level around the world. I would not have had the success I have had without their support. It does mean for some long nights when I am overseas as I often have to continue working via a laptop and the internet but this probably no different for many top referees. It also helps keep things in perspective – Monday to Friday, I deal with real problems whereas on Saturday it is only football problems.”

“The World Cup was a tremendous experience and a great honour to become the first New Zealander to officiate at this tournament. Whilst I only controlled one match, I fully recognise that I was one of the most junior referees there and, with more experience, my time will come in future tournaments.”

Referee Mike Hester is heading forward to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. But how did he look back at his first World Cup tournament ever?

“The selection of Peter and I for the World Cup has been a great achievement for a country where the game is mostly semi professional or amateur”, says Hester in (the last part of) his interview with the Dutch Referee Blog.

“Notwithstanding this, New Zealand Football does have a fully established talent identification and development programme in place so our selection has validated the importance and commitment of these programmes. It hopefully will also serve a a great example to those following behind us that with hard work, dedication and commitment, anything is possible.”

Hester and his assistants Jan-Hendrik Hintz (New Zealand) and Tevita Makasini (Tonga) in action during the World Cup in South Africa in the match between Greece and the Korean Republic.

How’s competition between the two NZ referees at one tournament?
“I would like to think there has been a healthy amount of respect between Peter and I throughout the programme. We were both very happy to advance to the final group of selection for the World Cup but we recognised that only one NZ referee would be selected to officiate at the tournament itself. Whilst referees are in competition for these final places, in reality, you are only in compeition with yourself. You have to referee to the best of your ability and then leave the decisions as to who gets selected up to those that decide such matters. If you are good enough, you will be selected.”

In South Africa the use of video camera’s became a hot topic. How did all the media attention influence the referees?

“The issue of technology was obviously a talking point throughout the World Cup. It was not, however, discussed in any great detail by the referees as this is a matter for the game to decide rather than referees. The game currently allows for three point control (one referee and two assistances plus a 4th official) so this method of control was our current focus. Whilst we were not oblivous to the media coverage, our job was to referee the matches as best we could with the three point control system.”

What do you think of the use of technical help in soccer games?

“The role of technology in football and the value it will add is ultimately for the game to decide, not referees. It most likely comes down to a balance between accuracy and flow. Referees would love to get all the decisions right but this would most likely come at the expense of flow so everyone in the game needs to decide on what represents the best balance between getting the big decisions right and not compromising the natural flow of the match.”

World Cup referee facts and statistics

Referees in this World Cup are mild to the players according to the card stats. They’ve given 101 yellows and 9 reds after 29 matches. Remarkable is the low average of yellow cards (3.5 per match), especcially when you compare it with the average of 4.8 cards per match at the World Cup in Germany in 2006.

I’ve tried to find some interesting referee facts (with the help of Fifa statistics). First the World Cup 2010 referee facts:

Tallest referee
Wolfgang Stark (Germany) with 191 cm

Shortest referee
Joel Aguilar (El Salvador) and Benito Archundia (Mexico), both 170 cm

Average height
181,3 cm

Longest international career
Benito Archundia since 1993

Shortest international career
Michael Hester since 2007

International since (youngest)
Five referees started refereeing international matches when they were 26 years old: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan), Joel Aguilar (El Salvador), Marco Rodriguez (Mexico), Pablo Pozo (Chile) and Oscar Ruiz (Colombia).

International since (oldest)
Stephane Lannoy at the age of 37

Birthdays during World Cup 2010
Frank de Bleeckere will become 44 on the 1st of July.
Joel Aguilar will become 35 on the 2nd of July.
Koman Coulibaly will become 40 on the 4th of July.

Countries who make theire refereeing debut
El Salvador: Joel Aguilar
Malaysia: Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh
New Zealand: Michael Hester and Peter O’Leary
Seychelles: Eddy Maillet
Uzbekistan: Ravshan Irmatov

World Cup 2010 match with the most cards (including 20th June)
Germany – Serbia with referee Albert Undiano (Spain): 5 yellow cards for Germany (including two yellows for Miroslav Klose) and 4 yellow cards for Serbia.

Facts about the World Cup referees in general.

Most World Cup matches
Joel Quiniou from France officiated eight matches at three different World Cups: 1 match in 1986 (Mexico), 3 matches in 1990 (Italy) and 4 matches in 1994 (USA).

Archundia in action in Leipzig at the 2006 World Cup. Photo Matthias Book Creative Commons

Most matches at one World Cup
Benito Archundia (Mexico) and Horacio Elizondo (Argentina) refereed five matches in only one tournament, both at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Archundia was the first with five matches in one tournament; Elizondo officiated in the final.

Most red cards by one referee at World Cup tournaments
Mexican referee, Arturo Brizio Carter, holds the record for sending off seven players in the six matches that he officiated in 1994 and 1998.

First referee who officiated the opening match as well as the final of the same World Cup
Horacio Elizondo was appointed for the opening match and the final at the World Cup 2006 in Germany. In the final he send off Zinedine Zidane after headbutting Marco Materazzi.

Fifa adds a note to the last fact: “In 1950 the Englishman George Reader directed the inaugural match Brazil-Mexico and also the last match of the final group Uruguay-Brazil but this one not technically considered as a final.”

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.