When the world surrendered to Spain in South Africa, in 2010, Carlos Eugenio Simon’s heart ached a little. After all, he was once quoted to referee the final, but it did not happen. In spite of that, he had other reasons to celebrate: a historical trajectory ended there. Brazilian referee Carlos Simon has participated at three World Cups (2002, 2006 and 2010). Stories abound of whom had warned David Beckham for putting down a corner flag during a restart in Japan, missed the bus to the physical preparation in Germany and had to be searched before a game that could be targeted by Osama Bin Laden in South Africa.
Simon’s 27-year career began by chance and he rejects the view that a referee is a frustrated player. In this interview with Portal de Copa, he speaks of the love for refereeing, admits mistakes and defends the professionalization of what he considers the weaker side of football. Currently working as a television commentator, Simon shows another view of the sport: who controls the game and is always at the center of criticism and controversy, but is also needed.
Referee by chance
I lived in and wanted to be a footballer. When I arrived in Porto Alegre, at 17-18, I was tested at Gremio, but it was very difficult to reach and get it right at that age. Then I tried other teams, but, as I worked and studied, I left the football side. In the first year of high school, in 1984, there was a championship organized by the student council and my team went out of the competition. They were looking for referees. Someone suggested my name and I accepted. It was a Saturday morning. I made the yellow and red cards from cardboard and refereed with the minimum knowledge that I had at that time. The physical education teacher Luiz Cunha Martins came up behind me and said, "Simon, you've seen whistling and you got the look. Would you like to take a referee course with the federation?" I did it and this allowed me to officiate in Porto Alegre and in the metropolitan area. In 1986, I took another course to referee throughout the state. And since then I never stopped.
Study, work and refereeing
I did tryouts for journalism, I entered college in 1988 and graduated in 1992. It was difficult to reconcile because I worked, studied and whistled, and it cost me several years of my youth. Sometimes, I went to officiate within the state on Friday and just returned on Monday. Those were my years in amateur football, from 1984 to 1990, when I gained a good experience. The amateur football is embattled, disputed and the referee has to be very flexible.
First major competitions
In 1991 I started to referee in the national championship. First in the second division and then started to grow in refereeing. I had the advantage because I liked to play football. I avoided conflicts with players, talked to them, did not stop play for small issues. The referee has to worry about important issues; do not have to enter the field with the magnifying glass. He has to let go these little things.
In 1995 I was considered as a referee aspiring to the FIFA badge and was invited to referee in the Paulista championship. In 1997 I managed to reach the FIFA List. I refereed my first Brazilian championships in late 1998, where two of the three games, the first game of Cruzeiro and Corinthians in Mineirao and the third game in Morumbi gave me national prominence. Then I started to prepare myself better. I left my job and just kept on the program Ask Simon at TV Guaiba, Porto Alegre. People asked questions and I answered once a week to maintain a salary. After 2000 there was not enough time. I refereed at the Olympics in Australia, plus many more matches in Brazil and abroad, so I lived practically through refereeing.
World Cup 2002 – Korea & Japan
At that time, there were important referees in Brazil. Antonio Pereira, Oscar Godoy and I had a fraternal dispute. I was the youngest, but my performance at the Olympics brought me the invitation to referee at the World Cup, which is the ultimate dream for a referee. The World Cup is the event where you are representing the country. I was not anymore Simon of Rio Grande do Sul, but I became Carlos Simon of Brazil. When the national anthems are being played in those seconds that precede the game, you can see a movie of your life, you are in the center of the football world, and millions of people are watching. The responsibility of commanding the game is yours. And then the first game was a classic European: England – Sweden. I had a funny scene. Beckham was getting ready to take a corner kick, took the flag and placed it on the floor. You cannot do that! I went there and warned Beckham and asked him to put it back. The guys who came to speak tuned for Beckham and the girls complained. The important thing is to remember that the rule is the same, no matter what values they receive or the powers that are there. You are there to referee by the rules. After that, I refereed Italy – Mexico. Until this World Cup, FIFA had a rule that if your country passed that phase, you go home. But I was happy to stay and follow until the end of the competition, although Brazil has reached the final. It was a huge pride.
FIFA changed everything in 2004: the referees committee, the tests. It was a more difficult process. They began requiring knowledge of another language, which is difficult for an old parrot to learn how to speak. I got to stay a month in Toronto to study focused on the rules of the game. FIFA has prepared a test with 25 questions in English, I hit the 25 mark. The physical demands soared; the referee had to be an athlete. I had to train a lot.
World Cup 2006 – Germany
The age was beginning to go up, but with sacrifice I passed the tests. At this World Cup, I was accompanied by Aristeu Tavares and Edmilson Corona, because the referee has indicated the assistants, which was formerly a confederation responsibility. If any member of the trio fails the fitness test, the trio is out, which is a huge responsibility. But the two assistants went and went well. The punctuality and precision of Germans drew my attention. I had an interesting episode. We had lessons with psychologists from 8:00 to 8:45 and, afterwards, the bus left for fitness training. One day, we went a little late to class. Then, when we got to the hotel looking for the bus, he had already left. It left with only one guy. They asked the driver and he responded: "They said it was scheduled to leave at 9:00 and I left at 9:00". I refereed Italy – Ghana, Tunisia – Spain, and a quarter-final match at the prettiest stadium (Allianz Arena in Munich): Germany – Sweden. Germany was a powerful team, yet I awarded a penalty kick against the host country. You have to know your responsibility.
World Cup 2010 – South Africa
I was already 44; my body changed further. FIFA pre-selected two referees from Brazil, Salvio Fagundes and I. Then there was that whole competition, with physical and theoretical tests. I refereed at the FIFA Club World Cup 2009, did a Barcelona game and then a playoff. I was in the eye of the hurricane. The people only see the bumps that you take, do not see the pingas you take. But I was working with respect, knowing my responsibilities, discussing football, taking position. This all weighs in that context. Then I ended up going to the 2010 World Cup, my last one. I refereed two games along with Altemir Hausmann and Roberto Braatz: England – USA and Germany – Ghana. The first one was a game where there was fear in the air because Osama Bin Laden has threatened to throw a bomb in the stadium. It was the first time we were inspected. We crossed our path with the vice-president of the U.S. in the hallway. With our good work, we were quoted for the final, but we did not get it. It was a bit of frustration, but it was a very good World Cup.
There are indescribable moments that you live as a football referee. It has nothing to do with the story that a referee is a frustrated player. I tried to be a player, but it was not given. I became a referee and had a successful career, where I entered the field with passion and always enjoyed it a lot. And being a referee allows you to be on the field with the greats Messi, Ronaldo, Zidane, Romario.
End of career
I finished the race in late 2010. I was 45 years old, which age limit for FIFA referees. I refereed the Brazilian Cup final between Santos and Vitoria, the final of the Supercopa (Estudiantes – LDU) in Argentina and the decisive game between Fluminense and Guarani in Brazil. I did not have the chance of refereeing the Copa America and Copa Libertadores finals in the same year because there were Brazilian teams involved. So, finishing a career with 1,198 games with three important games it really is a huge pride.
I have always been a fervent supporter of the professionalization of refereeing. It is absurd that in football - that involves millions and millions of dollars - the weaker side is the referee. The approval of the regulation of the profession of referee in the House is the first step (the project back to the Senate yet). It is unacceptable that the referee is still an amateur figure, although it is billed as a professional. It is important to support and encourage the referee, because it is not easy. The fans do not care if the referee is a journalist, lawyer or unemployed. The fans want to know why he awarded that penalty, etc.
If I can go back, of course, I would change attitudes. The fallibility is part of being human. Already publicly acknowledged my mistakes, but every profession is subject to error. Perfect is just the boss upstairs. The referee is the weakest side of soccer; it is much easier for the manager, or the coach to put the blame on the referee, the press also. Criticism is much greater. Who defends the referee? Only his family.
Technology in football
I support the technologies that already exist so far: the beep flags, the electronic scoreboards and now the goal-line technology of the goal line. If a goal was scored, it must be given. Humanly, it is impossible to see. The referee or assistant does not have that perception. As to the question you look at the video and make a decision, I'm not positive. It happened to me: a deciding game in 2008 for a vacant spot in Copa Libertadores: Cruzeiro – Flamengo. Flamengo's Tardelli treads on the ball and fell in the 93rd minute in the penalty area. Cruzeiro defender, Fortunato, did not touch it. By television cameras, it was a penalty. I did not award the penalty. He stepped on the ball and fell; I was 10 m from the spot. The game was 3-2 for Cruzeiro. And the broadcaster had no such image. The next day, another station showed a reversed angle. And that picture showed penalty. Imagine if I stop the game to look at the monitor and see whether it is a penalty. The next day, another TV angle showed that it was not a penalty. We cannot do that. And yet, looking at other fouls, for me it is a penalty, but it is not for you. When it is a matter of interpretation, we do not have to have technology; it must be at the discretion of the referee.
I have a graduate degree in Physical Education and 27 years of experience as a referee, which gives me the qualification to be a competent journalist. When I make comments on refereeing, I look to see the reaction of the referee. There is the game of n the field and the game on television. I have to review the game that the viewer is seeing. If television shows that penalty is a penalty, why the referee did not see it? Here comes my experience. He was poorly positioned, tired, out of shape ... always calmly analyzing the professional side, never personal. I love the experience.
Source: Portal da Copa