Referees and assistant referees from Africa, South America and CONCACAF have been meeting for a week-long seminar at the Home of FIFA in Zurich in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. This is the second collection of referees to go through the seminar, after a group from Europe, Asia and Oceania went through their paces in March.
Between 7 and 11 April, the 16 referees and 27 assistant referees underwent several medical, physical and technical checks, in order to give them an impression of their current status. The technical side of training was approached from a new angle, with video analysis of match situations used with the aim of offering uniformity and consistency, as well as showcasing changing mentalities towards tactics. The referees also had a chance to express their views, share opinions on reading the game and understanding different mentalities.
"Uniformity and consistency is really what it's all about," explained Mark Geiger, a referee from USA. "Referees come in from all over the world with many different styles and personalities, so it's important for us to be on the same page when the tournament starts in June. We need to see the game the same way so that, no matter what referee is on the pitch, the game will be refereed the same way." U-18 and U-17 players from FC Zurich were used to practice and emulate several game scenarios for match officials as they sought to find uniformity in their decision-making process and positioning. FIFA’s Head of Refereeing, Massimo Busacca - a highly regarded former FIFA World Cup referee himself - conducted the intense seminar, which involved numerous theoretical and practical sessions.
Sandro Ricci, who flew in from Brazil for the seminar, was full of praise for the level of preparation it provided. He said: "It's a great opportunity for us all to exchange experiences. We 've all been preparing ourselves for this World Cup - it's a once in a lifetime opportunity - so we've been talking a lot and learning a lot together. I'm sure my colleagues and I will be well prepared for this challenge."
Similar to the first session in March, fair play was the main focus as one of the seminar's key components. More specifically, protecting players and the image of the game were made top priorities throughout the week. Busacca stressed this area is a key point going into the World Cup: “For me, it’s one of the most important messages we have to give to the world and the players,” he said. “We are going to Brazil, one of the most famous and important football countries. "We need fair play, we need respect. Situations happen in less than one second for the referees, sometimes they don’t have the right angle, so it’s important to collaborate. Players have to understand that football is something you have to enjoy, not destroy. Sometimes for the referee, if there’s no fair play, it’s very difficult to make the right decision”.