Expectations of World Cup referees

An intense month in the football calendar has come to an end. The last group qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil have come and gone, and the final berths are about to be claimed via the playoffs. Slowly but surely, the make-up of next year’s tournament is taking shape. Yet this isn’t just an intense time for the teams; the same is true for the officials. Impeccable performances and the fullest concentration are expected of them. Participation at the World Cup is on the line, and that means there’s a lot at stake - a huge amount in fact. So it isn’t just the players and football associations who are feeling the pressure. The world’s top referees are also in the spotlight. My team and I will analyze those games in detail. Part of the prospective team of officials for Brazil is currently in the United Arab Emirates for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, while other referees are officiating at tournaments in the confederations, taking the opportunity to stake their claim for a part in the biggest and most important tournament in the world. The anticipation is building among the referees too.
The plan is for the world’s best to officiate next summer. That’s what we are working towards. In a way, we’re leading “team neutral” to the World Cup. Let’s cast our minds back briefly. In mid-April we organised four-day seminars in each confederation. I led those intensive sessions, which covered various theoretical and practical exercises. We are presently working with three-man teams of officials from over 50 countries, but there is still an opportunity for others to add their name to the list of those who will referee in Brazil. Officials may not have the necessary abilities today, but that may not be the case tomorrow. Right now we are still only at the qualifying stage and we don’t yet know who’ll be in our team for the World Cup! The next thing for us to do is to make sure that the candidates for 2014 make decisions on the pitch based on uniform and consistent criteria. We are working towards achieving uniformity and consistency in our decision-making. These are the vital factors we have to consider. For me, the most important messages we have to get across to the players and the rest of the world are fair play and respect. We are travelling to Brazil, one of the top footballing nations. We need fair play and we need respect. Some situations require a split-second decision, while others arise when the referee doesn’t have a perfect view. So co-operation is extremely important. The players need to realise that football is a game that needs to be enjoyed and not ruined. It’s often very difficult for the referee to make the right decision when the players don’t play fair. One of the most important aspects of a referee’s training is to understand different footballing mentalities. How can referees improve in this area? Through practising their skill relentlessly, just as a player or coach would do. They have to watch and re-watch videos, noting down the differences. They have to “nourish” themselves with football, as it were. We have to understand every zone, whether it be Africa, Asia or Central America. That way our referees won’t be caught out by unexpected situations or reactions. We have to grasp the different football cultures as best we can. We place great importance on the referee being in the best possible position during the game, focusing especially on his movement and where he places himself during a game. A well-positioned referee can, for example, better assess and recognise what’s happening in the penalty area or in peripheral areas of the pitch where it can be difficult to see exactly what’s taking place. Obviously we can’t eradicate every mistake although we can do our utmost to minimise errors. But at the end of the day, we are all human and we will always make mistakes.

Source: Massimo Busacca / The FIFA Weekly