Thursday, August 7, 2008

The First Game

We returned to Beijing this afternoon and we are exhausted from travel and last nightʼs match. As wide eyed first timers, we wanted to share a little bit about our experience.

We are still pumped up from the match and the realization that we are now officially Olympians! As you probably know, the game ended in a scoreless draw. Last night was an incredible experience! Wu Lihe Stadium is a beautiful brand new stadium redone specifically for the Olympics. The crowd in the stadium was quite loud and there were several moments during the match where our communication system was quite useful.

With a long way to go, we were the first crew to depart Beijing. Our fellow referees gave us a send off we will never forget, cheering and clapping for us. It was an unexpected moment of solidarity that reminded us we have a football family rooting for our success.

Upon arrival at Shenyang, we went on a short tour of the city and the Government Municipal Square. Many of the city residents take part in physical activities such as dancing, skateboarding, and jump roping on the square. In fact, there were a few thousand people at the square that night. Walking around the square was a perfect activity for us as we had a chance to see a local summer pastime and walking is a good way to loosen the muscles after flying.
We began preparing in earnest for the match by watching part of the World Cup Final from 2007 and discussing styles of play and strategies for dealing with specific situations. The next morning, we continued preparations with a pre-game at the hotel with our Argentinean fourth official. Veronicaʼs fluency in Spanish really came in handy to avoid misunderstandings in instructions.

We left for the stadium in a bus right behind Brazil and Germany.

While we waited for the bus, the Brazilian menʼs team departed to train and watch the match (Ronaldinho walked right past us!). With our police escort, we drove to the stadium while the locals waved.

Entering the stadium brought home the reality of participating in the Olympics. We went through the normal pregame preparations of walking the field and warming up, with the added step of testing the electronic equipment including the communication system, flags, and electronic sub board. We walked onto the field to the cheers of tens of thousands of fans. As the game began, we forced ourselves to ignore the distractions of the crowd and focus on the task at hand. Through the course of the game, we learned when to communicate vital information via the electronic system as well as when Kari was speaking to us and not to a player. At the end of the game, we were all drenched with sweat from the high heat and humidity. Although we were tired, we also experienced the exhilaration of working in a stadium with so many people, officiating the reigning World Cup champion and the runner up, and officiating at our first FIFA tournament. We were very fortunate to work our first game with a referee as experienced as Kari to help us with all the small protocols we never even thought of and calmed our nerves a bit with her confidence.

Veronica

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