Jerome Damon: refereeing in South Africa

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.”

South African referee Jerome Damon puts the wall at 9m15cm during the World Cup 2010 match between Japan and Denmark just before a Japanese goal.

South African referee Jerome Damon puts the wall at 9m15cm during the World Cup 2010 match between Japan and Denmark just before a Japanese goal. TV screenshot.

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.”

South African FA logo.

South African FA logo.

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.”

Life after refereeing: Errol Sweeney from Ireland

Errol Sweeney is back in his own Ireland, but has been a football referee in South Africa. He actually was named the best referee of South Africa twice. Once by his colleagues, the second time by sports journalists.

Errol Sweeney in action during a match in South Africa.

Errol Sweeney in action during a match in South Africa. Photo provided by referee.

Name: Errol Sweeney
Born: 1947
Country: Ireland
Career: FAI Intermediate, Cup final – 1974/1975; first cup final in South Africa was in 1986 as assistant referee. In 1986 he was fourth official and he got the first cup final as referee in 1988. In 1991 he also officiated both semi cup finals, which is unique in South Africa.

What do you do now for a living?

Errol Sweeney: “I’m a psychologist working in Wilson’s Hospital School in Ireland dealing with teenagers. And I am a referee coach and mentor up and including World Cup level.”

How do you look back on your career and what is your best experience?

“I started refereeing at the tender age of 22 in Ireland and by the time I finished in South Africa I had completed 25 years on the field experience. I went to South Africa in 1985 with my wife and four children as there was no work here in Ireland. It was difficult settling in at first but we got used to it and in the end really enjoyed it.”

“Like most referees I had many ups and downs but I always found it to be a fantastic journey. I never let a game fall through because I couldn’t make it – hail, rain, and snow. My best experience was the South Africa Cup Final in 1988 in front of 95.000 people. I also refereed Manchester United v Arsenal when they came to South Africa in 1993 when I red carded the former Utd and England captain Bryan Robson for foul and abusive language. It caused a big uproar at the time.”

Do you miss (professional) refereeing?

“I really do miss professional refereeing. If only God would make time stand still I would still be refereeing, but that’s life.”

What needs to be changed in football/refereeing?

“Basically there needs to be a separate Independent Refereeing Body to run and control refereeing. The National Football Association should have nothing to do with it. The soccer politicians are ruining refereeing and too many clubs and high profile club managers/coaches have too much influence when it comes to which referees handle their games.”

Errol Sweeney has also written a blog about a seperate Independent Refereeing Body on the website of Supersport, an African sports pay-tv channel. You can read all the stories of Errol Sweeney on refereeing here.

Read also previous interviews in this section

Discipline and sacrifice brought Carlos Simon 3 WC’s

Carlos Eugenio Simon in action. Photo from Simon's Twitter

Referee Carlos Eugenio Simon is preparing to hang up his whistle at the end of the season. He’s mentioned as a candidate for Minister of Sport in his counrtry Brazil and perhaps will engage in political life in the near future.

Written by Valdir Bicudo, a befriended Brazilian journalist and referee commentator at Parana Online.
Simon was the Brazilian representative in the last three World Cups. He’s, as a well-known referee, adored by many and opposed by many other fans. In an interview with Parana Online, Simon speaks about all the years in his career, the experience gained over time, analyzes the current arbitration in Brazil and abroad, and comments on the need for professionalization of refereeing and the changes that may revolutionize the role of the officials on the field and football as a whole.

Carlos Eugenio Simon graduated in journalism and wrote the book Na Diagonal do Campo (On the diagonal of the field) about the rules of the game and the routine of an referee. In addition to three World Cups, Simon also officiated four finals of the Brazilian Championship, five cup finals in Brazil and another one of the Copa Libertadores and the World Cup for Clubs, which will be held again December of this year.

You are the most important Brazilian referee these days. What is the feeling of having participated in three World Cups, a milestone in Brazilian arbitration?
Carlos Eugenio Simon: “The feeling of participating in a World Cup is wonderful – think of three. All of this is the result of much discipline, sacrifice and determination. It is worth noting the importance of family support, referees, assistants and friends.”

Why did the referees and linesmen during the recent World Cup in South Africa make mistakes to such an extent, even though the selection process was considered unprecedented by Fifa when it comes to arbitration?
“Most of the decisions were correct. There were a few mistakes, but fallibilityis part of being human. I think referees and assistants did proper training and preparation. A process which is progressing.”

Why were you and your assistants Altermir Hausmann and Roberto Braatz, although you’ve all done an excellent job, not scheduled in most games?
“We did our part, which was coming to South Africa on and work competently. We worked on two sets which had great magnitude and were praised by everyone – the committee, instructors, colleagues and the press. We are referees and are not responsible for scales.

What is the influence of the media on the work of the referee in Brazil, South America and the world?
“Some in the media world knows or has worked in the arbitration, but the majority knows very little of this activity.”

Are you in favor of the professionalization of arbitration in its entirety or only for the major competitions? In Brazil, there are conditions for the professionalisation of football referee?
“It’s the only way I see it. Football has long ago turned into a big business and the referee remains ‘amateur’. I’ve always defended and will continue to support the professionalization of refereeing.”

What o you think of the implementation of two more assistants behind the goal?
“From what I’ve read and heard so far, I am in favor. I think these introduction of these AR’s will help a lot, yes.”

How do see the use of technology in football?
“The chip in the ball would be one solution, for example in WC situations in games of England and Germany, where the ball crossed the goal line completely for 33 inches and cannot be seen with the naked eye by arbitration. I support a chip in the ball. What do not favor is to stop play and look at the replay. ”

What about the suffering of the referees and assistants when their performance is shown with 32 television camera’s?
“As I wrote earlier, the emotions and pressures are strong in football and we need support from psychologists, coaches, instructors, body language. All this to ease the tension.”

Isn’t the use of high technology versus a referee who has only two eyes unfair?
“It may be unfair, but we live in an age of technology. But the mathematics of arbitrage is also unfair. If you whistle ten games and make a mistake in one, is it that one they remember. The official takes on average about 150 decisions in a game and hits most, but there’s a debate that he is wrong. ”

You leave the FIFA because of the age limit of 45 years. Which Brazilian referee will succeed you?“The Brazilian Arbitration is competent and have referees who may well succeed me.”

What are your projects after you’ll stop?
“For now I do not think much about it. I want to finish my career in full physical, technical and psychological strength.”

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.

Read also other articles from Valdir Bicudo on the Dutch Referee Blog.

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