Archive for November, 2015

Barkey on the 2006 world cup and referee experience in general


The wayback machine saves the day.

THE BEST summary of what it is like being a referee is from Barkey’s post after the 2006 World Cup.

To preserve it for myself, with full credit to Greg Barkey, here is the content of his last post after his world cup referee experience.

It is excellent!

Danke schön, Deutschland

It was a bit depressing coming home, not because the pool was green, the grass knee high and there was a letter from the IRS asking for my 2002 return, but because I realized I had finished my dream, it was time to wake up, do my own laundry.  Reality bites.

The sweetest thing about home is the open arms of your family and it is something that is absolutely essential if you want to be a FIFA referee.  You must have a safe home base to land.  I have that.  You’re right.  I am lucky.

How do you wrap up 37 days of living a fantasy?  How about my top ten most memorable moments, in no particular order, here they are.

Passing the fitness test.
Oh, the angst and then relief.  I just couldn’t have borne the feeling of failure if I had been sent home.  For me this was the pay off for all the running in sub-freezing temperature, the laps completed, the sweat and the fear that maybe I wasn’t working hard enough. I have not idea how many miles I went, at the time it seemed like so many

The FIFA Banquet
Getting our watch and coin meant that I had made it.  It was a moment of pride when I thought; I’m here. I’m representing the US of A.   Cool.

The Final Night BBQ
So many people just let their guards down and just enjoyed the last night before we rode off into the sunset.  You can only laugh so much.

Croatia vs. Australia the game, the locker room, the day after.
What a rollercoaster of emotions.  A great match with all the WC atmosphere you could ask for, just one too many yellows.  I still can’t believe it.  What depression.  On the day after, Graham Poll received support in phone calls and messages from the likes of Beckham, Terry and the EPL chiefs.  They all stood behind him. The best was to watch Graham and crew rebound from this strange set of unfortunate events.   Mistakes happen, but you don’t get to the WC by mistake.

The sauna
The reason this is included in the list is that the image of naked German grandmothers is memorable in the, I can’t get it out of my head.  sort of way.

Watching “A Few Good Men” and the Biergarten with Graham, Sharp, Glen, Mark, Ben and Nathan
“Is that clear?”  “Crystal”  “You can’t handle the truth!”

The World Cup atmosphere
You just can’t recreate or explain it; fans from all over the world come together for one massive party.  Even the losers have a good time.  Would love to bring the Dortmund or Kaiserslautern stadium to the US…with the fans.

The cathedral in Nuremberg
Walking into this cathedral and hearing the organ playing gave me chills.  To see Japanese and Croatian fans kneeling side-by-side made the scene seem surreal.

Training sessions
They were hard work some mornings, but Werner and the staff kept them creative.  During the practical sessions it was interesting discussing the finer points of officiating with the best from around the globe.

Vincent, Walter, Pablo, Jorge, Horacio, Dario, Rodolfo, Julio, Valentin, Nikolay, Eugenie, Jerome, Polli, Sharpie, Glenn, Shieldsie, Gibo, Ben
These are the best memories, priceless.

This website grew into something bigger than I ever expected.  Over the tournament it had over 30,000 visits from 20 different countries.  Many, many of you sent words of encouragement that were all read and appreciated.  I think that I answered just about every questions sent to us, the ones that I could I should say.  If you want more answers you can still get them out of me, but you know the price.

One of the prevalent underlying themes in many of the questions and e-mails received was that of hoping to one day be in my shoes.  “I want to go to the World Cup as a referee someday.” Great, I wear size 8 ½ so they are not big shoes to fill, but reaching the World Cup is a long and thin road with incredible peaks and depressing valleys.  This is not to discourage you, but rather for you to pack the supplies needed for the journey.

You will need fortitude to withstand the onslaught of criticism in the public eye and integrity to keep you on the right path. Humility to face your mistakes with Leadership to show you belong.  Desire so you will be fit with the ability to Sacrifice the things that hold you back. Courage to make difficult decisions mixed with Perseverance to keep going when the road gets rocky. Support from mentors, with family to catch you when you trip. And here is a heavy one to carry, Personality, so you will be noticed.  Do you have these?  Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime?

If you think reaching the World Cup is all about how well you blow a whistle or raise a flag, then you will never make it.  Yes, those things are the most essential, and you will not even get close to any professional match without them, but there are many referees that can do that.  What makes you special?  What makes you stand out in a crowd of good referees, no, great, referees.

I’ll tell you what intangibles worked in my favor; I am bilingual, I befriended, I listened, I helped, I laughed, I presented, I gave, I cared and most of all I took the time to make friends.  These things matter.

Here is some sad truth, and I wish it wasn’t true.  You may take the path all the way to the World Cup door and find it locked.  You knock and knock.  You can see other referees inside and you yell, “Hey, let me in”.  Finally, an old wise man from some small foreign land comes to the door.
“I’m here”, you answer, “I passed the fitness, passed all the exams, I refereed all the big matches with great scores from the assessors, let me in, I want my World Cup.”
“I’m sorry”, he says with heavy accent, “but we had to give your spot to this other referee.”
“But why?”
“Oh, because he comes from Here”
“Yes, Here. Here is related to There, who also is the son of Where, who just happens to sit on the committee that decides who goes to the World Cup.  Do you come from Here or There?”
“No, I…”
“So sorry, you don’t come from Here or There so we do not have a spot for you Anywhere.  Goodbye.”

The only reason I tell this story is to let you know how lucky and grateful I am that I had the honor of representing 150,000+ USSF referees at the world’s greatest sporting event.  I could have easily have been watching this World Cup like the rest of you, cursing the announcers.

I had knocked hard on that door by myself, but that wasn’t enough.  Others worked with me along the way and some deserved it as much as I. Brian Hall, Craig Lowry, Esse Baharmast, these people represent the groups that helped me and had previously knocked on that door.  People most of you will never know, like Alan Brown, who took time to mentor me when I thought I knew everything.   My wife and kids who always welcomed me home after yet another weekend away and, of course, my teammates, Kevin and Chris whose journey to get to the door was similar to mine.  It took a lot of people knocking to get the door opened.  It will not open if you knock by yourself.

That door has closed behind me now and as I turn around for one last look at my dream I hear the words of Julio at the end of our last training session,  “What an honor it is to be here, my friend, what an honor.”

Yes, it was.  Danke schön, Danke schön.

Auf wiedersehen,
Gregory Barkey