Monday, November 5, 2007

Brian Hall Named OSI Referee of the Year

U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer refree Brian Hall was named OSI Referee of the Year for the 2007 season on Monday. It is the fourth time, and third consecutive season, that Hall has been honored with the recognition, having previously earned it in 2003, 2005, 2006.

Hall has been officiating MLS matches since the league's inaugural season and has represented the United States in several FIFA competitions, including the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan and 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying for the CONCACAF region.

According to MLS: "The OSI Referee of the Year was determined by equal voting from the media, MLS players, MLS coaches and general managers and MLS referees."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jair Marrufo Finalist for OSI Referee of the Year

Jair Marrufo, one of U.S. Soccer's four full-time referees, was named as a finalist for Major League Soccer's OSI Referee of the Year award. The other two candidates for the award are U.S. Soccer and former World Cup referee Brian Hall and Alex Prus. The winner will be named on Monday, November 5.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

U.S. Soccer Fall Showcase Weekend

From October 5-8, 2007, I was very fortunate to participate in the first ever segment of the newly implemented Developmental Academy Program. The showcase event took place at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., beginning with a meeting on Friday night, games all day on Saturday and Sunday, and concluded with just two games on Monday morning.

The teams that participated were from all across the country including the U.S. Under-16 and Under-18 Men’s National Teams. The games I worked were all very competitive and exciting. I felt the players were placed in the best environment possible for them to not only compete at a high level but also show off their talent and skills in front of the men’s national coaching staff.

This was not just an opportunity for the players but for the referees as well. These games presented some very good decision making opportunities and challenges for us to demonstrate our abilities as officials. The players were in very good physical shape giving the matches a very fast pace. Not only were we being tested on our knowledge and application of refereeing but our fitness was put to the test as well.

All of our matches were evaluated by the top referees, instructors, mentors, and assessors in the country. We were given immediate feedback on our performance about what we did well, what we didn’t do well, what we could have done better, and how we could improve. This weekend was not about passing or failing, but rather constructive criticism and making us better referees. I would say to any other referee that may be asked to be a part of this program that you if you are given an opportunity to participate, you should.

I think I can speak for all of the Southern California referees that worked this opening weekend that we all had a great time, saw good soccer, learned a lot, and are hoping to be included in future Developmental Academy matches and events.

Thank you very much to U.S. Soccer for creating, funding, and supporting such a program and most importantly for including the referees in your mission to improve the game of soccer as a whole in our country. As well thank you very much to Esse, Alfred, Paul, Terry, Nasser, Heinz, Thomas, and Heros for taking time to organize this experience and for helping us all weekend.

All the Best,

Daniel Radford

Monday, October 15, 2007

U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase

The thing I liked the most about the Academy experience was that it brought me into close contact with the finest referees in Southern California. Being able to observe so many good refs during such high quality games sharpened my skills and brought my level of refereeing up a notch or two, both on and off the field.

Another thing that struck me was that it demonstrates U.S. Soccer's genuine desire to improve the level of refereeing. The amount of professionalism involved in the scheduling and accommodations, not to mention the number and quality of the staff (like Esse Baharmast, Alfred Kleinaitis, Paul Tamberino, etc.), removes any doubt that the U.S. Soccer Federation isn't serious about producing world-class referees.

Having one of the full-time refs there was a special treat for me. I cannot tell you how much I admire the fact we are one of the few countries to have salaried soccer referees. I can now imagine what it must felt like for the Galaxy players when David Beckham first came on board. Not only did they get to meet David, but they got to work with and learn from him. That's how I felt about Terry Vaughn.


Friday, October 12, 2007

U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase

To be a participant in the first U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., was a great experience as a referee fortunate enough to be selected to officiate matches involving elite soccer programs from various parts of the United States. The mentorship and instruction provided by elite U.S. Soccer administrators and FIFA referees: Esse Baharmast, Paul Tamberino, Alfred Kleinaitis, Heinz Wolmerath and Terry Vaughn proved invaluable and set the stage for top notch performances by all Referee Academy officials.

The level of matches and sportsmanship demonstrated by the participants of this Academy was extraordinary, as was the camaraderie of all the participating referees. Personally, I was fortunate to officiate two matches during this tournament which tested my abilities as a soccer official. As a first-year National Referee, I was able to work with a range of extremely talented young referees as well as seasoned National Referee candidates.

My assignment on Saturday, Oct. 6, between Crossfire (Wash.) and Atlanta FC (Ga.) provided a high level of play and a showcase of players' abilities. Hopefully, those players will one day display their skills as members of the U.S. National Team.

This program was a great experience and hopefully will lead to the development and advancement of young elite soccer officials within Southern California and the United States as a whole.

All the Best,

Alfredo Munoz Jr.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fall Showcase Weekend


The first U.S. Soccer Fall Development Academy Showcase at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., was a great success.

A total of 38 games were played at The Home Depot Center from Saturday, Oct. 6, until Monday, Oct. 8. The overall organization from U.S. Soccer was excellent.

On our side, the referee side, we had our own Academy going. Participating referees came from all over Southern California and were selected by Nasser and Paul. We had National Referees, grade 5 and 6 state referees and some Grade 7 officials as well. All of the referees performed very well in this tournament. No one red card was necessary in all of the 38 games!

The discipline level and the standard of play were very high. While all officials impressed with good attitude, fitness and teamwork, a few of them - in my opinion - need to be specially mentioned.

Excellent performance by Alex Mariscal and all of his siblings. They are an example for all referees.
Also above standard and excellent: Israel Fernandez, with a first class attitude, presence and superior fitness. At age 23, he has a great future in U.S. Soccer.
Daniel Radford, a 21-year-old Grade 5, is also in that same category.
F. Orozco and the Cisneros brothers are not far behind.

The last two games on Monday, Oct. 8, were officiated by Radford and Fernandez in the middle. The games involved the U.S. Under-16 and Under-18 Men's National Teams against the Under-16 and Under-18 Richmond Kickers. While the U.S. U-16 MNT ran away with a 7-0 score, the U.S. U-18 MNT had to fight in order to get a somewhat lucky 1-0 victory. Again, in those games the officials had an excellent performance.

It was a pleasure to be a part of this tournament and be able to work together with the U.S. Soccer Referee Department and the very young and promising officials from Southern California.

All the best.



Saturday, September 29, 2007

What an amazing experience

Wow, the Women's World Cup 2007. What an amazing experience.

Jen and I have been privileged and honored to represent the USA in the capacity of referees here at the World Cup in China. As always it is our deepest desire to conduct a match that is considered fair, safe and exciting for the players. I believe we have been successful in that endeavor and of that I am truly proud.

We could not have done without all the support of our friends, family and soccer family back in the USA. Unfortunately, as you may have heard by now, I have not been appointed for another match on Sunday. However I will be there supporting the USA team 100% in their bid for 3rd place.

Thank you again everyone and enjoy the final matches of this memorable WWC. See you back in the USA soon.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Not quite yet

Thank you everyone for your support and well wishes. They are much appreciated. . Unfortunately there was a delay in announcing appointment and we will not know final appointments until Saturday afternoon (Shanghai time). Please check back often on Saturday for the latest news. Until then keep your positive vibes coming.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Wednesday was the first semi-final Germany v Norway.

As usual, the day started with training in the morning (fairly intense with 16x100 meter sprints, followed by 100m jog) and a technical session on the field. We focused on a variety of actual scenarios with players going to goal. The objectives was to determine if there was an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity. It was imperative that we considered the D's in making our decisions.

With no debriefing scheduled, we had the afternoon free. FIFA scheduled a shopping trip (the #1 attraction here in Shanghai and by far the most "experienced" by the referees). Not knowing exactly where we were headed I boarded the bus, just out of a need to stretch my legs and get out of the hotel. Needless to say unless I was looking for imitation hand bags, watches or t-shirts there was nothing for me at the market. However I did find a wonderful park just a few blocks away, actually called a Mausoleum for Martyrs. Some interesting Chinese history at this beautiful park.

But as usual the sign translations where a some of the most entertaining elements of the day. Select your favorite translation of the park rules on this sign.

The true focus of the day however, was of course the semi-final which we all watched together live in the referee lounge in the hotel, as the match was being played in TianJin about 1:30 hour flight away.

Thursday's schedule is much the same as Wed, but nothing in the afternoon officially planned so I took team Asia (referees from China, Taiwan and Japan) out to explore. I had my first taxi ride in China. A bit safer than I expected. We made it to our destination with no problem.

We visited the most famous shopping area in Shanghai (which is closed to cars) and of course stopped of a Chinese Starbucks (apparently there are over 65 in this city). I tried the new Green Tea Blackberry Frappuccino - Fabulous!

Now it is time to watch the USA v Brazil semi-final. This game is bound to be one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Go USA.

Friday night FIFA will announce appointments for Sunday's matches. Again, keep your fingers crossed for another appointment :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hello from China

Last night the referees celebrated the conclusion of the first part of the tournament with the first round and Quarterfinals completed. We had a wonderful dinner at Villa Rouge a "french" restaurant (which serves Chinese food). We had the whole back patio for the FIFA referees and LOC members for dinner, live music and dancing. With only 8 referees and 11 AR's staying for the next round, there was much to celebrate as the WWC '07 has been a great success to-date.

With only 4 matches of the world cup remaining, we are all very anxious to see what is in store for us as we have some thrilling Semi-Finals coming up and of course the final and 3rd/4th place match.

Today we received assignments for the 2 Semi Finals. 2 referees teams from UEFA will be officiating. Dagmar from CZE is the referee for the Norway v Germany match and Nicole from SUI is the assigned to officiate the USA v Brazil match.

Now we must wait and see to see if the team remaining to represent CONCACAF receives another appointment: Kari Seitz, Isabel Tovar (MEX) and Rita Munoz (MEX). Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Also today Sept 25th, is a special holiday in China. Today is the mid-Autumn festival, where family togetherness is celebrated and moon cakes are eaten. FIFA was kind enough to buys us each a moon cake in order to experience the Chinese culture.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

FAQ: WWC 2007

We apologize for not responding to the comments you have been posting. In China, blogs are blocked and we have been having difficulty accessing the comments on our blog.

FAQ#1: Is any US ref going to be assigned to a knockout game?
At this point, the quarterfinals are almost complete. Jen is going to be a 4th official for the Norway vs. China match, but Kari is resting in Shanghai. We do not know the assignments for the semi-finals or finals. The first round of referees will be dismissed on 25 Sept so we will have a better idea at that point.

FAQ#2: As many of you may know by now, we were spared by the typhoon. It hit landfall south of Shanghai and Hangzhou and lost momentum as it moved north. We had quite a bit of rain overnight and the rain continued on Wednesday. However, on Thursday, we had sunny skies, no rain and only mild humidity for this region.

FAQ#3: There had been some questions about the electronic communication system. I am waiting for the questions to be forwarded to me, but as soon as I receive them, I will add our comments to this post.

Arrival in Wuhan for Quarterfinal - Norway vs China

Jen and her team arrived in Wuhan around 5pm Saturday evening. As before, we were greeted at the airplane as VIPs with flowers. We arrived at the hotel at 6pm and watched the second half of the Germany vs. North Korea quarterfinal which ended 3-0. After the match, we had dinner and then watched the USA vs. England match together. England put up a good fight, but simply could not find the back of the net and the US benefited from a few goalkeeping mistakes to win 3-0.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast together at 8:45am followed by a short walk in the nearby neighborhoods. We had our pre-match meeting at 10:45am and are now preparing for the match. We are all excited. The match sold out a week ago, 55,000 spectators. As we walked in the streets with our local guide, many Chinese people asked our guide if we were the referees for the match. Of course she told them “no”, but many called her a liar. They are very eager to see their team tonight in Wuhan.

Quarterfinal Assignments and Ping-Pong Competition at WWC

We left Hangzhou Friday morning headed back to Shanghai via train. We arrived in Shanghai around 1pm. We were notified of the quarterfinal assignments. Jen would be the 4th official for the match in Wuhan on Sunday – Norway vs. China. Jen will work with Gyongii Gaal (Hun), Marisa Villa Gutierrez (Esp) and Cristina Cini (Ita). At 3pm, we had our post-match training. The post-match training typically consists of a warm-up on the stationary bike followed by stretching. Jen decided to take the opportunity to swim in the pool in lieu of the typical post-match training. At 4:30pm, we had our match debriefings as usual and dinner later in the evening.

We officially started our referee ping-pong tournament. Jen’s first opponent is Janie Frampton, FIFA instructor from England. We played our match after dinner with Janie commenting that this was a precursor to the USA vs. England match the following night. Janie put up a good fight, but Jen was able to defeat Janie in two matches and moves on to her next opponent, Fu Hongjue (China). Of course, ping-pong is the national sport in China, so the odds are certainly in favor of Fu, but Jen has been doing some serious mental preparation and visualization to get ready.  Meanwhile, Kari’s first opponent is Jerome, our electronic communication expert from France. Both have been doing their fair share of trash talking, but we’ll see who comes out on top. The prospects are not good however; whoever wins will face Alejo, our fitness trainer from Argentina/New Zealand who is arguably one of the better players in the tournament.

Saturday morning, we had three different groups at the morning training session. For Jen’s crew, they had their -1 preparation (one day prior to a match) and for Kari’s crew, they had their +2 preparation. Both physical and practical training continue through the play-offs. At lunch, Jen and her crew departed for Wuhan while the remainder of the referees had their regular meeting to discuss match preparation for the quarterfinals.

Typhoon Wipha sends both US referees to Hangzhou

Once again, thanks to everyone for your continued support!

When are we leaving and how long will we be gone?
We left for Hangzhou at about 2:30 on the afternoon on Tuesday. We threw or jacket over our heads and rushed through the pouring rain on to the bus scheduled to take us to the train station, on the direct, high-speed train. I glanced out the window to say good-bye to the onlookers when Sonia rushed over and waved us back into the lobby. There she explained the latest development – Typhoon Wipha would be delaying our match by a day - however we would still be leaving immediately. Of course our first thought was, “do I have enough clothes (read: undergarments)”

Jen had been waiting in the lobby to bid Kari and her crew farewell and also found out that her match would be delayed by a day and moved to Hangzhou. An hour later at the debriefing session, Jen and her crew found out that they would be leaving the hotel in less than an hour to travel by train to Hangzhou on the last train that evening.

Traveling at Speed
Hangzhou is only about 200km from Shanghai, so traveling by train is an excellent way to go; especially in a Typhoon. Both groups (on separate trains) were led by the local guide. Adrianna (Kari’s 4th official) had been to Hangzhou three times, so she was an expert. We navigated the station with ease. The train took us through the Chinese countryside, but with the rain it was hard to see. We traveled at about 175kph and arrived in only an hour.

Fun in Hangzhou
Given that the matches had been postponed for a day, we had an entire free day ahead of us in Hangzhou. Our hotel was located across the street from West Lake, a very tranquil setting. However, after an evening of pouring rain and more rain and humidity on its way, we started the day with an indoor activity. The local organizing committee shuttled us to the Hangzhou Silk Mart. We learned all about silk – how it is manufactured by hand and how to determine if it is real. Did you know that real silk is flame resistant and burns cold?

We spent a couple of hours shopping in the silk mart prior to returning to the hotel.

After lunch in the hotel, we spent a good portion of the afternoon walking around the West Lake. The park was originally the home of a famous Chinese poet and throughout the park we were able to see many tributes to his work. Because of the rain and impending storm, there were not many visitors at the lake so we were fortunate to have some tranquil time.

Later in the afternoon, we returned to the hotel for a work-out in the gym. We were planning to watch the other matches on the television at 5pm and 8pm. However, at 5pm, we could not find the match on the television so we went to the FIFA office to see if they had access to the broadcast. We then found out that the two matches had also been postponed only a few hours earlier. So Kari and Jen ventured out once again in the rain to do some sightseeing.

Game Day
As a group, we started with Breakfast around 8:15am. We hurried along in order to be ready for our local guides who had a “plan” for us from 9-11am. We all agreed that sitting in the hotel all day was not the best way to get us in our optimal stated of mind. With 2 world cup vans and our local guides all seven of us set off for the Hangzhou countryside. Our bus ride ended at the Dragon Well Green Tea “plantation”. Here we learned about making and drinking green tea. Of course we all purchased something and took photos – typical of referees.

Norway vs. Ghana
The first match of the day was Norway vs. Ghana. Jen’s referee team met for their pre-game meeting at the hotel prior to lunch. The referee team left for the stadium 2 hours prior to kick-off. We arrived at the stadium, inspected the field and started preparing for the match. We were greeted by Mr. Angel Maria Villa Llona, the Chairman of the FIFA Referee Committee who was in attendance for both matches. He came to the locker room to wish us well. The match was originally scheduled for Shanghai so there were not many fans in attendance. Ghana had already been eliminated from the play-offs, but that did not discourage their spirit. Their fans were cheering them on with song and dance. There were many combinations which would allow Norway to advance, but to guarantee a place in the play-offs, Norway wanted a win. The match ended 7-2 in favor of Norway so Norway was guaranteed a place in the play-offs. The match was played with a good spirit, a tribute to the spirit of the Women’s World Cup. After the match, we finished our paperwork and then went to the VIP tribune to watch the second match, Brazil vs. Denmark.

Brazil vs. Denmark
In Kari’s own words:

Knowing that the Brazil vs. Denmark match was a critical match, with a win by Denmark necessary to stay in the tournament, I wanted to make sure that I was in the most positive frame of mind, in order to be ready for anything.

Keys for me were:
1. An upbeat walk around the beautiful West Lake, listening to inspiring music
2. A light massage to wake up the legs
3. Lunch with my team
4. Pre-game meeting
5. Relaxation and game visualization

43,000 fans were in the stadium eagerly cheering on Brazil. A win by Brazil and in the simultaneous match a win by China, meant team China would go through to the quarterfinals. Needless to say, the China supporters were extremely enthusiastic. Early in the second half, I was 1,000% concentrated on the match and despite the announcement being made in Chinese - I knew that China had scored on New Zealand – the crowd erupted! It was awesome. And they didn’t quiet down from there.

The Brazil vs. Denmark match proved to be a wonderful display of technical skill and speed. With some simple man management by the referee crew, the teams settled in and played a great game of football. Only 2 cards were needed in the match to keep things in order. The Danes fought hard, but in the end they could not beat Brazil’s attacking and individually skillful game at a final score of 1-0.

The greatest aspiration for a referee is to officiate a game which is considered safe, exciting (good football) and fair. At the end of the match I received a wonderful complement from #9 of Denmark. She touched my arm and said, “It is a pleasure to work with a good referee”. If the loosing team plays their heart out and feels they got a “fair shake” then we have done our job.

What an honor and a privilege to have officiated this match.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Along Came Typhoon Wipha

Kari and her crew were in the lobby ready to catch their ride to the train station headed for Hangzhou when they were notified that due to the Typhoon Wipha, Kari's match has been postponed until Thursday at 8pm.

This is the first time in 10 years that the eye of a typhoon will probably make landfall in Shanghai. Hangzhou is 200km southeast of Shanghai and also along the coast. Undoubtedly, they will also get plenty of rain and strong winds like Shanghai.

They are expecting up to 8 inches of rain over the next 24 hours so Jen's match has also been postponed and moved to Hangzhou on Thursday at 5pm. Unfortunately, Jen and her crew were not able to make the train tonight and most likely transportation will be stopped tomorrow due to the storm so they may very well be traveling the morning of the match by train.

Looking out the window right now, the rain is pelting down. We are not sure what will happen with the match tonight in Shanghai featuring the US and Nigeria, but we will probably find out shortly. For now, FIFA is saying that the match will kick-off as scheduled.

Never a dull moment here in China - as always, we have to be ready for anything. This brings back memories of Russia last year at the U20s final (for those who remember that match).

It is unclear what will happen with the television schedule at this point, so stay tuned.

Monday, September 17, 2007

3rd Round Assignments in China

On Saturday, assignments for matches 17-20 were announced and on Sunday, the assignments for matches 21-24 were announced. Good news for the US. Kari will be refereeing Brazil vs Denmark on Wednesday, 19 Sept in Hangzhou at 8pm. Kari will be working with Isabel and Rita (Mex) once again and Adriana (Col). Jen will be refereeing Norway vs Ghana on Wednesday, 19 Sept in Shanghai at 5pm. Jen is teamed up with Corinne and Karine (Fra) and Estela (Arg). We are both eager for our next matches. Kari will be traveling to Hangzhou via train tomorrow afternoon.

Kari received a picture from her first match from the local organizing committee which we wanted to share with you.

Trip to Wuhan - Brazil vs. China, WWC

The outpouring of correspondence from everyone has been fantastic! Keep it coming, we love to hear from you.

It has been a couple of days since we last blogged so we’ll try to bring you up-to-date. Thursday was a rest day for the teams and similarly a light day of training for the referees. We had weight training, core stability and stretching in the fitness center at the hotel followed by more strenuous exercise – shopping! We went to the WWC official store to purchase memorabilia. In the afternoon, we had the debriefing session for the matches the previous day. Friday, the weather began to change. There was a typhoon headed for Korea and it brought some rain to Shanghai. Surprisingly, it was a pleasant change for most of us. Kari did not train with the group as she had a match later that evening. Jen had light training in preparation for her match on Saturday. Light training consists of a warm-up and then 2 sets of (12) 20m sprints. After lunch, Jen had a brief meeting with our psychologist to talk about mental preparation for the match. After the meeting, both crews for the matches in Wuhan departed for the airport.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time. We flew on Chinese Eastern Airlines. The flight was good – we had curry chicken for dinner which was probably one of the better meals I have had on an airplane. However, by far the highlight of the travel was the arrival in Wuhan. We were greeted by the local organizing committee as soon as we stepped off the plane. We each received a bouquet of flowers and were escorted down to the tarmac to board a VIP van which took us to a VIP waiting room. While we waited, they collected our bags and within 20 minutes, we were off to the hotel with a police escort. Wuhan’s population is 8 million. The traffic is heavy, but nothing like Shanghai; however, the pedestrians are crazy! As we were driving along the divided road (probably traveling about 40mph), the pedestrians were standing in between the lanes. I now know where “Frogger” originated.

We arrived at the hotel around 8pm. When we arrived in our rooms, we had gifts awaiting us from the local organizing committee. The hospitality was first rate. We had dinner and then were able to watch the England vs. Germany match on the tv. Saturday, we started the day with breakfast at 8:30am. In our hotel, the restaurant had a large buffet for each meal. The selection of food was great and we had plenty of Chinese and non-Chinese dishes from which to choose. Since we were not planning to leave our hotel until 5:15pm, we had plenty of time to spend some time exploring the local neighborhood around the hotel. It was truly a treat. We were greeted by the friendly locals who would show us the universal sign for football/soccer – the motion of the foot kicking a soccer ball. We would nod and then carry-on our exploration. We came across many groups of men and women playing board games and cards in the street. We also came across 5 young boys playing ping-pong, the Chinese national game, in the street. They had a ping-pong table without a net, but they used brick-like rocks as the net. They smiled and said hello as we snapped a quick photo. We also came across two boys playing soccer on the sidewalk. They did not have a proper ball, but had a soccer-size ball made out of mounds of tape wound together. They too greeted us with a friendly hello. As we wandered on, we saw a memorial for the dead at one residence (photo below). As in most residential areas, laundry was strewn everywhere hanging from lines overhead. The weather in Wuhan was humid, but in the mid to upper 80s.

At 5:15pm, we headed off to the stadium guided by a police escort. The trip took about 45 minutes, so we arrived in time to see the 2nd half of the early match, Denmark vs. New Zealand. It also gave me an opportunity to take in the atmosphere from the stands. Already the stadium was easily ¾ full and I knew the match was a sell-out and we could expect a full stadium at kick-off.

At 7:15, we started our warm-up on the field. This was a great opportunity to test our electronic communication system making sure the volume was adjusted accordingly for the background noise in the stadium. For those who may have watched the match, you may have noticed the odd background noise every now and again.

When the clock hit 7:47pm, it was show-time! We left the locker room and entered the waiting area. The Brazilian team came out singing and dancing. All of the volunteers and security staff pulled out the cameras to capture the moment. As soon as the FIFA anthem started to play and we entered the stadium, I had goose bumps form on my arms. It was unbelievable. I looked to my left and right at my crew and I felt extremely proud and honored to be leading the teams out onto the field. I wish I could express the feelings that I had at that moment, but words cannot do it justice. Needless to say, it is a feeling that I will not soon forget.

For those who were able to watch the match, I’m sure you would agree that the match was exciting. The match ended 4-0 to the Brazilians, but the score does not do justice to the competitiveness of the match. I knew the match would be challenging to referee from both a physical and mental perspective, and I was not let down. However, I thought our referee crew had great cooperation and worked very well together. I enjoyed using the electronic communication system despite my earlier apprehensions. Despite the loud noise in the stadium, the communication system worked extremely well. I know that my assistants got an ear full as I talked to the players throughout the match; however, there were a couple of situations, where I wanted my assistants to talk to the players and the communication system was a great way to convey that information to them. For example, we had a foul near the assistant where I played advantage on a counter-attack and I asked my assistant who was very close to the player to tell the player that we saw the foul. I did not have to take my attention off of the counter attack, but I could hear my assistant talk to the player and I knew we had good control of the situation. It is important to stress that the communication system is not a replacement for good eye contact and clear signals. Of course, it can also be a distraction if information is conveyed at inappropriate times, if communication is not clear or if more than one person tries to talk at the same time.

After the match, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and a post-match massage. It was a late night, returning to our rooms around 12:45am. Of course, the adrenalin running through my system made it nearly impossible to fall asleep. I searched the tv for highlights from the match but to no avail. The only thing on tv was cricket and news. I slept for about 2 hours before I headed to the FIFA office to check my email. I was pleasantly surprised to see many emails from people sent immediately after the match. The outpouring of support from all of you has really made this experience that much more special. I am honored to represent the US here in China and to know that we have the support of all of you back home. I cannot say enough how grateful we are for your support.

At 6:30am, we met for breakfast and I was greeted by the local organizing committee with photos from the match. I had a good laugh at some of the looks on my face as I cautioned the players – perhaps you caught a few on the tv.

We were once again escorted by the police to the airport for a 9:30am flight. We arrived back in Shanghai at our hotel in time for lunch, our afternoon debriefing session and then a light cool-down training session. Later in the evening, we had movie night in the referee lounge. I fell asleep probably 35 minutes into the movie, but was told that I woke up laughing as the movie ended as if I had not missed a beat.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

2nd Round Assignments at WWC '07

Wednesday was a relatively quiet day in Shanghai. Many of the referees who had traveled to other venues were either refereeing or traveling back to Shanghai. We had only a few referees for training this morning so we stayed at the hotel and had strength and core stability training in the fitness center. Kari, Isabel and Rita had their own cool-down session consisting of a spin on the stationary bike.

Later in the afternoon, we had a debriefing session for the following matches: Japan vs. England, USA vs. PRK and Sweden vs. Nigeria. We watched selected video clips for instructional purposes. The topics of discussion included foul recognition, advantage, misconduct, wall management, game management and offside.

At the end of the meeting, we received assignments for the next round of matches. Kari will be the 4th official for Japan vs. Argentina in Shanghai on Friday, 14 Sept. She will be working with Dagmar Damkova (Cze), Souad Oulhaj (Mar) and Ndah Tempa (Ben). Jen will be refereeing Brazil vs. China in Wuhan on Saturday, 15 Sept. Jen’s team includes Isabel Tovar (Mex), Rita Munoz (Mex) and Estela Alvarez de Olivera (Arg). The China vs. Denmark match drew a crowd of 50,000 so we anticipate a great atmosphere. The match promises to be exciting. For those interested in watching, please refer to the broadcast schedule link below.

We wrapped up the night watching two live matches in the referee lounge – New Zealand vs. Brazil and China vs. Denmark. At half-time, we played a few quick matches of ping-pong. The atmosphere was light-hearted and the camaraderie was truly enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's showtime for the US referee crew!

Our 1st match is now under our belt and I am just now sitting down to write this report at about 1am. WOW, What an exciting evening!

The evening started off with a police escort to the stadium. Instead of the typical siren to clear cars, bikers and mopeds out of our way, the Police here actually speak over a loud speaker. Our local volunteers translated: "stop", "move", "let me go first". It worked. We arrived at the stadium 20 minutes early!

Upon arrival, Isabel, Rita, Jen and I did the pre-requisite check of the field. A great opportunity to make sure field markings were correct, understand the true field dimensions and get a feel for the atmosphere and the condition of the field. If you watched the match you could probably see for yourself - it was soft. Needless to say I did not even consider wearing the turf shoes I had planned, but decided it would be safer to go with cleats. It was my first good call of the evening.

Japan vs. England was bound to be an exciting match up. Japan is very skillful, tactfully sound and quick. England is also skillful and physically strong. Being in the group with Germany (an incredibly dominate team as seen in game #1) these teams knew that winning would give them an excellent opportunity to go through to the next round.

Tonight everyone was in good spirits. It was nice to say hello and wish good luck to previous stars from the WUSA - Kelly Smith and Homare Sawa, both excellent and key players for their respective teams. It certainly can be helpful in establishing credibility right away if the players respect the referee from past experiences.

The pace of the game was in a word - FAST. End to end, back and forth, any one's match for sure. The players really came out to play and after a few fouls and an early card, the game settled in and they played. As the referee, I had to stay on top of a lot of contact in the box, with players fighting for position on corners and free kicks. We had a very unusual free kick by Japan where two players knelt down in front of their opponents. It resulted in a deflection back to their team for a shot on goal. The referee team looked closely for any misconduct or handballs, but nothing - a strange one for sure. In the end England scored 2 goals in the run of play and Japan had 2 goals, both as a result of free kicks. A tie - one of several on the second day of games at the WWC '07.

This match was a joy to referee. I had a fantastic time and it was such an honor. I was pleased to work with two great assistants and of course a fabulous 4th official.

By the way, when working properly (sometimes it cut in and out), the Electronic Communication Device is an effective tool. Could you see the device around my waist? How many pounds did it add on TV??

Thanks everyone for watching and also the notes of support. We go out there and represent you - the USA - each and every time we take the field.

It is now 1:20; time for bed. Check the blog often for updates on assignments. Best, Kari.

Let the WWC 2007 Games Begin!

Monday marked the official start of the Women’s World Cup 2007. We started the day as always with breakfast and training. The atmosphere at breakfast was riddled with excitement. The Australian crew was getting ready for their big day. Our training was light on Monday because we were scheduled to referee the following day. So we had a warm-up followed by sprints and stretching. Whilst the others started their practical training, we walked around the university campus where we have been training. The campus is quite quaint despite being nestled in the middle of a large concrete jungle. There are many trees and a stream that runs through the middle. It is an oasis for the students and visitors alike. We stopped to take a quick photo with the statue of Mao Tse-tung and then proceeded to meander through the campus for about 30 minutes before returning to the hotel.

At 5:45pm, we departed for the opening ceremonies. We had a bus full of eager spectators. When we arrived at the stadium, we were ushered to the VIP area where we were treated to some snacks.

The opening ceremonies began at approximately 6:30pm. There were numerous performers including dancers and singers, but by far our favorites were the girls dressed as soccer balls whom we had met earlier in the week.

The theme of the opening ceremonies was “The Power of Beauty”.

Many of the performers were women or girls, but probably the most moving portion of the opening ceremonies was Sun Wen running to the stage along a long red carpet, being hoisted up to the mock-up of the WWC trophy and placing a silver soccer ball appropriately to complete the trophy. It reminded us of the Olympic torch being lit. Sun Wen was a superstar both in China and in the World. She was awarded the prestigious FIFA player of the century award in 2000 and is now a FIFA ambassador. Shanghai is Sun Wen's home town so it was fitting to have her "light the torch" for the opening ceremonies. It was a great tribute to the past and future of women’s football. Fireworks lit the sky over the stadium and the crowd erupted as the ceremonies concluded marking the start of the WWC 2007.

Let the games begin….

The match started at 8pm – Germany vs. Argentina. The tournament is always kicked off by the team who won the previous WWC which in this case was Germany. Germany was far too strong for Argentina, but I don't think anyone could have predicted the final score – 11-0. Records had fallen: the most decisive WWC victory ever, two players scoring hat tricks which has only happened once before and Birgit Prinz moving to the top of the list of goal scorers at WWC events alongside our own, Michelle Akers. We would have liked to see a more competitive match, but nevertheless, it was a fantastic evening and quite a thrill!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Formal Dinners and First Round of Assignments for WWC

Thursday night, we joined the staff for our formal referee dinner at the FIFA headquarters. We were joined by the chairman of the WWC organizing committee, Mr. Worawi Makudi (Thailand). Everyone looked dapper in their formal FIFA suit. We indulged in a 4 course meal with the best part being the final course.

We finished dinner around 10pm and headed to the river front for a little sightseeing including one of the more recognizable buildings in the Shanghai skyline, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (seen in the picture below).

As usual, we had a training session Friday morning. Since Thursday was light training, Friday was a bit more rigorous. Sunshine covered the sky and the heat continued to increase. We did not have practical training Friday morning as the instructors were meeting with the teams today to refresh and discuss match specifics for the tournament.

The training portion of the tournament is coming to a close and soon the matches will begin. We are all excited for the opening ceremonies on Monday.

Friday, the 7th started with some speed agility training on a hot and humid day; a great way to loosen the legs as we move from the fitness and test portion of this experience on to pure game preparation.

Following lunch, the big moment, the first round of assignments were announced for matches 1-8. The opening match will be officiated by a team from the Asian Football Federation, the Australian team. The 2nd match of the tournament, Japan vs. England will be officiated by the CONCACAF crew of Kari Seitz, Isabel Tovar (Mex), Rita Munoz (Mex) and Jen Bennett in Shanghai on Tuesday the 11th. We are looking forward to a fantastic match on Tuesday. For those interested in watching the match, refer to the link below for the broadcast schedule.

Following the much anticipated assignments, the referees headed off to Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium to receive our credentials.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to grab a peak of the final preparations for the WWC opening ceremony. What a great treat! We were able to spend time with some very enthusiastic little girls ready to play “Mulan”, the WWC mascot. The girls soaked up the attention and gladly posed for numerous photos.

Following this inspiring and motivating visit we headed over to a dinner at the Convention Center hosted by the WWC Local Organizing committee, where we were treated to Chinese food and special Chinese entertainment.

All of the preparations are in place and China is ready to kick-off the WWC 2007.