Being the host country, Brazil is guaranteed a spot in the World Cup 2014 without any need to participate in qualifiers. When it comes to referees, however, there is no certainty that there will be a Brazilian trio among those 32 that will be appointed for the World Cup.
The first Brazilian who failed the FIFA fitness tests was Wilson Seneme, 42. The second was Leandro Vuaden, 37. The hope and responsibility are now with Sandro Ricci, 38, who will be evaluated next month, in Asuncion, Paraguay. Ricci gets intensive preparation to be fit in time for the test. Brazil's participation in the context of refereeing at the World Cup at home depends on him. Even the assistants, who have already passed the fitness tests, depend on him. For some reason, the physical part is the most difficult for Brazilian referees. Even among the most celebrated. Seneme (photo) is highly respected among his peers. "He is always on the move and knows how to impose on players. When a referee makes everything right, you say it <senemeou> that game, with reference to Seneme”, say his colleagues from Sao Paulo. The recognition is all what is left to Seneme after he failed the tests for 2014, since he will not have another opportunity to officiate at a World Cup because FIFA’s age-limit of 45 for referees. "I have nothing to complain about. Always knew how they would be testing and I always knew that, if will not pass, would be left out. There were no surprises", he said, before lamenting the lack of professionalization of Brazilian refereeing. "I am a state government employee in San Carlos, taking care of the organization of Open Games and Regional Games. I am unable to dedicate myself only to refereeing and, because of that, did not do the ideal physical preparation. I should have started at age 30 to pass now, at 42. At least, I failed on the track and not on the field”, said Seneme.
The test is not easy. The referees need to complete 20 runs of 150 meters in 30 seconds each, with only 50 m of recovery walk in 30 seconds between the runs. Regardless of his non-refereeing expertise, Usain Bolt would be accepted with praise. In the first test, conducted in September 2012, in Zurich, Seneme completed only one run. "I was suffering from plantar fasciitis, pain in the sole of the foot, and I failed. In January 2013, in Asuncion, I completed 12 runs and stopped. Thesting for the World Cup is very hard. It is more difficult than the regular FIFA test, where having a rest of 35 seconds helps a lot", said Seneme. Vuaden, who was the "reserve" of Seneme, also failed. Assistants Emerson Carvalho and Alessandro Rocha passed the tests and have already been approved. "For me it was easy. I did more than it was necessary," says Carvalho. He refers to 40 runs of 75 metres in 15 seconds each with 20 seconds of rest.
Not all of the tests were so hard in the past. Until 2002, referees selected for the World Cup had to complete two runs of 200 meters with 35 seconds rest and then do the Cooper test, running at least 2700 meters in 12 minutes. In 2004, Angel Maria Villar, president of the Spanish Football Federation, took over the FIFA Referees Committee and asked Belgian Werner Helsen to change the tests. As a consequence, for the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, the selected referees had to complete 24 runs of 150 metres with a rest of 35 seconds to walk 50 metres. Now, for the 2014 World Cup, the number of runs decreased, but the rest time is shorter as well. Contrary to what it may seem, it actually became more difficult. "There are less runs (20 instead of 24), but the rest is much shorter (30 sec instead of 35 sec). These are terrible", said Seneme.
The choice of referees for the World Cup in Brazil is not up to the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). "FIFA decided everything; they did not consult us," said Aristeu Tavares, former chairman of the Brazilian Referees Committee, who left in late February 2013, and who, as assistant, participated in the 2006 World Cup. Carlos Simon was chosen by FIFA to represent the Brazilian refereeing at the last three World Cups (2002, 2006, 2010). He considers inadmissible for referees to fail fitness tests. "Look, I am 47 years old and still pass these FIFA tests. If my age would have allowed me, I would have competed with others to referee another World Cup". For him, the willpower is key. "I talked to Vuaden and suggested him to dedicate to refereeing during the last 3 years. Going to a World Cup is a thing worth forever. Before me, only 12 Brazilians had the chance. That is something that stays forever, but, in order to get there, you have to put aside the beer, the snack, frying food, you cannot be sedentary, you have to train every day, you have to love the career. I did all that”, said Simon. For him, the spots for South American referees are less certain. "Recently, Pierluigi Colina (the Italian referee who did the final of the 2002 World Cup and the final of the 1996 Olympics) told me that the failure rate in Europe is zero percent. Only in South America referees are crying that the test is hard. Is it hard? Yes, but if you want to get to the World Cup, you have to work hard. I cannot say I feel sad because our two referees have already been eliminated, because I took the test in August 2012 and cannot be held responsible. All I know is that from 2013 all Brazilian referees invited for a course, a conference or a tournament outside the country will be approved only if they pass a test simulated here". Tavares explained that even Sandro Ricci or Heber Lopes, his reserve, are temporary approved, but their participation in the World Cup is not guaranteed. "54 trios are currently pre-selected, but they undergo detailed analysis in four FIFA competitions (Confederation Cup, U-20 World Cup, U-17 World Cup and Club World Cup). Only then, the final trios are defined. There is a tendency of the host country being contemplated, but there is no certainty". Paul Camello has been appointed by the CBF to monitor the work of the referees. "The referees selected by FIFA to take the tests are given a set of instructions to prepare. A series of exercises they should do before testing and also competitions. I worked with Seneme and Vuaden and I suffered a lot with them. We did everything, but, as there is no professionalism in Brazil, the referees need to seek extra time to train. Sandro Ricci is following everything that FIFA asks and even hired a professional trainer. He will pass", he said.
While preparing for the test, Sandro Ricci is not allowed to give interviews. Before leaving the office, Tavares said what Roberto Patu, his coach, wrote in the report. "Ricci will pass easily. We have a partnership that began three years ago, when he had some injuries. Today, in addition to referee, he is an athlete", said Patu. Ricci (photo) is 38 and undergoes an intensive preparation. "He works six days a week and we consider a game day as a day of work. Daily work is done in the morning or late in the afternoon and aims to achieve aerobic endurance, anaerobic lactic, anaerobic analectic, power and agility", explained coach Roberto Patu. "We alternated runs of 10, 30 and 50 metres with quick runs a minute or two minutes. On other days, he makes a long run of 30 or 40 minutes. He also does jumping exercises and to increase strength". That's it? No, there's more. Ricci goes to the gym three times a week for weight training exercises. His nutrition is monitored and undergoes a diet of 2500 calories daily. "It's all about control. In the past three years, he never had a rate above 10% fat, while FIFA allows 12%. I am sure he will pass the tests in April", says Patu. If successful, Ricci will be the 14th Brazilian referee to participate in a World Cup.