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!