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:

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.


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