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.