What it takes to be a referee in the World Cup

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They train their entire careers to make it to the World Cup, building endurance, strength and agility, and developing the mental toughness to handle the pressures of the game.

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While the attention of the spectators is focused on the athletic prowess of the players in the FIFA World Cup men’s tournament in Qatar, the soccer officials overseeing the event must also present it in terms of world-class fitness.

Referees typically cover a distance of six to eight miles during a 90-minute match, according to Werner Helsen, a sports scientist with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Work as a referee requires sprinting, endurance and the ability to change direction quickly, as well as emotions and skills for handling players’ temperaments and exercising power. They have with some of the fastest athletes in the world 90-plus minutes, all while demanding the rules of the game.

“It’s a lot of high-intensity running that a referee needs to do,” said Mark Geiger, who in 2014 became the first referee from the United States to officiate a World Cup match. “To respect international and professional players, it demands a lot on the body, and that’s why they train the way they do.”

From the fitness test to the refs

World Cup referees must pass fitness tests approved by FIFA that assess sprint speed and aerobic fitness.

“Fitness is your passport,” said Rick Eddy, director of referee development with US Soccer. “If you don’t have good decency, you’re not going to advance or pass the test, and the tests are getting harder and harder in the last few years.”

The FIFA Referees Committee has chosen 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 insert officials to work at this year’s World Cup.

In a World Cup match in Qatar there are five officials on the field: one referee (sometimes known as the center referee) who is in charge of the match, two assistant referees on opposite sides of the field and between the officials and a fourth and fifth. performing administrative duties and assisting referees. Video assistant referees (VARs) monitor match footage and assess on-field results.

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To become a FIFA referee, a person must work in their country’s top league for at least two years, Eddy said. To make it to the World Cup, a US referee must first be recommended to FIFA through a process involving the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which handles professional soccer in North America, as well as US Soccer.

It is also a difficult test of speed and agility that all the refs must pass. According to FIFA and Geiger, it includes:

  • Six 40-meter darts with no more than 60 seconds of recovery between each repetition. Each sprint must be completed within six seconds for the male referee and 6.4 seconds for the female referee.
  • grueling interval test, repeated 40 times without pause, which consists of a 75-meter run (15 seconds or less for men; 17 seconds for women) followed by a brisk 25-meter walk (18 seconds or less for men, 20 seconds for men and women—which to 4,000 meters, or equals 10 laps of 400 meter tracks.
  • The change-in-direction test is known as the 7-7-8. Geiger, who retired from the professional game in 2019 and now works as a senior offensive director with the PRO, said the test requires a seven-yard dash, then turning 90 degrees to the left and another seven-yard dash, then a 90-degree turn to the right. and another seven meters scat. The drill must be done twice, he said, and the referee must do it in 4.9 seconds or faster each time.

“They’re trying to imitate the referee in the game,” Geiger said. “They don’t run consistently in the game. They run for a while and then take a short break. Let them walk.”

Assistant referees are a slightly different test that involves sprints and side rubs to mimic what the referees do in matches across the sides.

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The Washington Post asked American soccer player Drew Skundrich, 27, for tests at the beginning of November at the practice field of his former club DC United. Later, Skundrich said the evidence gave him a better evaluation of the referee’s job.

“It was definitely tougher than I expected,” he said. “The refs have to move a lot, which makes sense because they have to keep up with the speed of the game. Some games can go back and forth really quickly, and unlike defenders or attackers who can kind of stay on one side of the field, the refs have the whole thing to cover, so it makes sense to try to match them up. “

In Qatar, one of the first female refs of the World Cup, she lives an “impossible dream”;

Referees must be constantly trained to keep up with the demands of the game. For 34-year-old Joe Dickerson, who has been a full-time referee with the PRO since 2018, and a Major League Soccer match, he set up to round out the years in this way.

“I think we are just as fit as the players,” said Dickerson, who is off duty for the World Cup.

His training regime fluctuates throughout the year. During the MLS offseason, Dickerson focused on light jogging and light weight lifting, before preparing for the FIFA fitness reference test (HIIT). During the season, Dickerson does a lot of cross-training, including swimming, to recover from high-load matches.

Eddy, who was a referee in MLS before his job with the US team, also advocates for swimming, in addition to cycling, to build aerobic strength. He recommends mixing up the reps when it comes to workouts.

“You want to be fit to referee games. You don’t want to referee games to get fit,” Eddy said. “It’s about balance.” You know, one day it would be a sprint workout, the next day it would be a space workout, the next day he could recover in the pool.”

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Welcome to the mental game

Understanding the team and the player’s style of play can make the referee’s job much smoother. All good referees, Eddy said, keep a record of the players’ tendencies. Reported professionals need to anticipate where the ball will be and position themselves.

Dickerson said: “There is no distance. It is fast and just as explosive and dynamic as possible. Then the other part is reading difficult stories. We put a lot of work into the show film and trying to understand what the teams are going to do so we can anticipate where it is before we get there.”

One or two yards off the best angle to see the game can mean the difference between getting or missing a penalty call.

“It’s all these things that we’re trying to balance,” Dickerson said. “We just want to make the right decisions, so we need to accept that with the physical challenges of being in place.”

World Cup in Qatar

Some: Portugal cruised to an easy 6-1 win over Switzerland and will meet Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday after Atlante Liones beat Spain on penalties earlier on Tuesday.

USMNT: The US men’s national team fell to the Netherlands, 3-1, on Saturday in a round of 16 match. The United States has not won a World Cup match since 2002, when it beat regional rival Mexico in the round. 16 in South Korea.

Swipe through the schedule: The World Series of Players is filled with shocking upsets and dramatic turns that will now give way to a beating round that promises more surprises.

Today’s WorldView: The 2022 World Cup appeared to be a case of controversy since Qatar won the right to host it more than a decade ago. Sometimes they are drowned in the noise: concern for the impact of the climate tournament. Perhaps anticipating a blowback, Qatar extended an ambitious pledge: to hold the first carbon-neutral World Cup.

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