Refereeing seems easy enough. Run around, call some fouls, signal for infractions and generally make sure the kids don’t injure themselves or each other.
Sometimes it’s a bit more difficult.
I refereed the U-11 championship final at the Nike Super Cup on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011. The game wasn’t scoreless for long, as Pateadores put the first of its five goals into the back of the net in the 8th minute. The team would score again in the 10th, 20th and 31st minutes, and led 4-0 at halftime.
Pateadores is an extremely well-coached side, and its forwards skirted offside throughout the game, beginning with the build-up to its first, third and fourth goals. And believe me, the Pateadores players’ ability to avoid being called offside didn’t go unnoticed by coaches and fans of opposing Capo FC, leading to mis-directed attention toward the refereeing team.
So why is it that when one team is playing so poorly, and the score is lopsided, the fault must be that of the referee? Is it simply easier to blame the guy in the yellow shirt rather than look his players in the eye? Or worse yet, into the mirror?
Well, Pateadores didn’t let up in the second half, adding another goal in the 42nd minute (U-11s play 30-minute halves, plus stoppage).
On the build-up to the goal every Capo FC player, coach and fan was absolutely adamant the Pateadores player on the receiving end of the pass was in an offside position. Capo FC’s players, in unison, began barking at me about the non-call rather than playing to the whistle, like they’re taught.
Finally, I had heard enough sour grapes and told each and every Capo FC player within earshot, “Play to the whistle like you’re supposed to, and quit complaining. If I hear one more thing, there’s going to be consequences. Am I making myself clear?!?!”
Typically, players under 12 do little to warrant being shown a card. And as referees, we’re trained to avoid showing the younger kids discipline, opting instead for verbal admonishment.
But just as Pateadores was excellent at skirting offside, Capo FC was just as adept at skirting unsporting behavior.
Lucky for them, the only thing Capo FC was shown was a 5-0 tail-kicking. Next time, it might not be so fortunate.