Thursday, January 17, 2008

Greetings Part II

Evening greetings from China!

Winding down from a busy couple of days here, last we visited we were preparing for the first day of matches. All went smoothly for the officials, the US played against a young Canadian side in their first game under a new coaching staff. The final score was 4-0, our Finnish referee Kirsi did a very nice job, and her team of Chinese officials worked well together. The second match between China and Finland was quite fun to watch, with the Finnish side sporting a couple of new speedsters up front and the Chinese side always entertaining with their quickness and combination play. Their skill clearly pleased the home team fans, who came out with their noisemakers and enthusiastic chants and put on quite a show of their own for local TV. Canadian referee Carol-Anne and the Chinese AR’s also did a fine job, and the Chinese team rewarded their fans with a 2-0 victory. We, er, I (as the 4th official) had mounds of paperwork, having to write out the rosters, 10 subs (5 per side) & misconduct – twice – plus details on everything from the weather to the condition of the pitch to the attitude of the spectators to stoppage time added to etc etc... About an hour later we emerged with writer’s cramp and ready to hit the road.

Jet lag hit us with full force after a hot shower and dinner, so it was an early night for us – I’m talking early, like about 8pm. Seemed like a good idea at the time until I was wide awake at 4:00am. Oops. Caught up on a few things for work (yes, I have a real job too), and by 6:00am figured it was time to rally. Went down to the fitness center for some light training, did breakfast with the girls, then it was down to serious business. With a group of women that can only mean one thing: Shop. Ping. Forward, charge!

Our lovely translator Sherri arranged a taxi ride and accompanied us to Beijing Road – I gotta tell you, to really experience a country you have to take a taxi ride. Makes you wonder if all cab drivers go through the rest of their lives at this sort of low voltage. Nothing, I mean nothing, fazes them. For the most part, I try not to look -- why think about your own mortality that often when no one else on the road seems to? Against all reasonable odds, we arrived safely to the pedestrian boulevard which was colorfully decked out with all sorts of New Year’s decorations. And lotsa signs for sales! We took full advantage and a couple of hours later caught our taxi back looking like a bunch of pack mules. We done good. Real good. If nothing else, our bags cushioned the ride back. Why they bother to paint in lane markings is beyond me. The horn is essentially attached to the brakes. And the gas pedal for that matter, and I have yet to see any driver check the blind spot before changing lanes. And I use the plural form of lanes on purpose because they zip across 3 or 4 of them at a time. I tried to look out the window once but all I saw was a bus about an inch or so from my face. Gracious.

Grabbed some lunch (I’ll spare you another five paragraphs about food, but there were many delicious things again), then it was off to the Olympic Stadium to debrief from the matches and get in group training. All the officials were given the opportunity to speak about the match and do a brief self-analysis. The assessor then commented on each official’s performance, pointing out strengths and things to improve upon. It went well for all the officials, and our assessor was pleased with the first day’s games.

Luckily, the rain that had been coming down all day finally let up, and the wind died down, so off we went to the practice pitch to train. The US team was still there working on distribution drills and what not, so we did about a 20 minute cardio warm-up at an adjacent park, in the middle of which was a show-horse ring (mystery smell solved, as the horses weren’t far away). By the time we finished our stretching routine, the US was cooling down and the pitch was ours. We did some anaerobic training for another 20 minutes or so, nothing too crazy since tomorrow is a match day, just enough to get the blood flowing and the lungs moving. We finished off with an hour’s scrimmage, with the assessor, a former U-20 national team player (now a referee) and two ARs on one team and the mean team of Kirsi, Carol-Anne, yours truly, Katie (Chinese AR), and some older woman who just showed up with a pair of cleats about half-way through on our team. Things were looking bleak for our team for awhile, but once we had um, two extra players (ahem), we triumphantly took the match. If any players watched us, I’d bet they’re still laughing hysterically. Good times.

Tomorrow I will be the referee for China versus Canada at 14:00 local time. We’ll get to the stadium a bit early to make sure we have plenty of time for a good pregame, check the pitch, get a head-start on the paperwork, and put our game faces on. I’ll bring all of your good thoughts with me and do my best to get it right.

Until next time,


Sin Hang Lai said...

Sandra, I was wondering if you can comment on the issue of pollution in China and its impact on athletic performance. I realize you probably can't be publicly (in order to maintain good international relations), but this is certainly a hot topic with the Olympics coming up and that's taking place in far warmer weather. A fellow CT referee is going to represent the US at the para-Olympics at the same time and he doesn't quite believe me that this could be an issue. I remember very well growing up in Hong Kong and how crowded, hot, muggy, and dirty those Summer days were. Just really wanted to know if you've noticed it there. Thanks and keep up the good work! - Sin Hang Lai

Rock 'n Roll Bob said...

I just would like to thank you for taking part of your time to share an experience that most of us will never have. Many of us wonder "how things would go" in an environment and tournament such as that. Your witty banter and willingness to share is much appreciated... Travel safe and hope to see you again in Charleston sometime... Bob Wern