Football made huge strides in my country after we hosted the 1994 World Cup. The sport now has financial backing, the players are of a high standard and the fans are enthusiastic. Consequently, Major League Soccer has become the perfect working environment for me and refereeing has become a dream job. I officiated my first match at the age of 13, and like so many other American kids, I loved to play football. Soccer is one of the most popular sports among young kids in the USA before they turn to American football, baseball or basketball in their teenage years. Back then, I needed a job and wanted to earn a bit of money, but it became so much more than that.
I received the e-mail with FIFA’s offer to go to the World Cup in Brazil at 2:24am. It’s difficult to describe what went through my mind at that moment. I was speechless, thrilled, moved and proud. My dream was coming true. By the time the alarm clock rang at 6.30, I’d already received several text messages from friends congratulating me. The reaction from fans, players and coaches was generally fantastic, and it gave me encouragement in my everyday work too. About a year ago, I gave up my dream job as a maths teacher to concentrate fully on my refereeing career. There are many parallels between teaching and officiating. You have to constantly adapt your style to suit the class or players in front of you; you have to be able to work well with people and be able to respond to them. On the pitch, we’re much more than someone who blows a whistle and shows cards – we’re managers. We have to use communication to help 22 players to play their game; we have to provide a framework and protect the players, and that’s not always straightforward. Football is all about emotions and these can sometimes boil over. Body language is important too: whether it’s the way I move my hands or the tone of my voice, these things make all the difference when not everybody on the pitch speaks the same language. The most important thing before any match is preparation. We have to know the coaches’ tactics, the line-ups and the character of each of the players. The support I get from my assistants Joe and Sean is hugely important, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. We complement each other perfectly - the chemistry is 100 per cent right. Now we’ve got to oversee our first World Cup match. We’d love to progress through the tournament, ideally all the way to the Final on 13 July. In that respect, we’re no different from the players.
Source: FIFA Weekly