Sunday, January 20, 2008

Greetings from China – Part III

Afternoon greetings from China! Somehow we are on the last match day already, the time has gone very quickly. Last time we visited, it was the night before the second day of matches, where I was appointed as the referee for Canada versus China. I’m happy to report that all went smoothly. We met a little earlier than usual to give ourselves lots of time for the pregame, which gets tricky when English is a late second language for the crew. Luckily I grew up Italian and am fluent in speaking with my hands, it was part Pictionary, part charades, and part comic theater. Until the UN can come & hook us up with those little translating earpieces, we do what we gotta do. It was the only draw of the tournament thus far, a real midfield battle but unfortunately no goals for the fans or TV audience, ending in a 0-0 tie. Not many goalscoring chances for either team, though Canada opened things up in the second half quite a bit and had a few runs at goal. Three cautions were issued to the Chinese team, same amount but different players as in their first game against Finland. Our Finnish friend Kirsi was the fourth official, handling the subs and benches like the pro that she is, and our new Chinese FIFA Assistant Referees Zhang Lingling and Liang Jianping also did well. The referee assessor was pleased with the match so we were satisfied with the day’s work we put in.

The pitch is a bit soft, it's basically new grass on top of sand so it's likerunning on the beach with barely anything to hold onto. The hotel pool is thelocal icebath, which bonds everyone in a special type of silent misery-to-pain-to-numbness progression. But the best part is the visit to the hotel’s “Foot Care and Massage” room. For $20 and a smile, a tiny smiling woman with iron thumbs will give you a foot massage that starts at your shoulders while your feet boil, er soak, in hot water & oil, and ends at your partially cooked toes for the better part of 90 minutes. Bleary-eyed and drooling you walk zombie-like back to your room and just aim for the bed when you fall down for a nap. They could have done brain surgery on me for all I know it was so relaxing. One of the bosses from the Chinese Football Association took all the referees out last night to a restaurant, and Holy Smokes was it a feast. All well-known culinary species to the Westerners, for which we were grateful. The chicken's head still had the comb, causing our Finnish friend Kirsi to just about jump out of her seat. Really spectacular, and they wouldn’t let us up from the table until we were utterly stuffed.

Tomorrow we train in the morning and do a little sightseeing afterwards. Hopefully everything has been digested by then!

Until next time,
fini :)

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