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.

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.
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