A World Cup (WC) provides wonderful stories and intense controversy depending on which team colors reside in your heart. Sometimes we put the referees at the heart of controversy. Our American referees, Mark Geiger and Mark S. Hurd, along with Joe Fletcher from Canada managed the France vs. Nigeria game. While there were a couple of decisions which could have used a different management option, Mark Geiger managed the game assisted by his referee team, in a successful manner, well enough to earn a fourth assignment at the 2014 WC.
Mark Geiger did well in the following refereeing areas that are critical to good game control:
- His fitness is excellent, making it easy for him to stay close to play and quickly get good angles of vision. In counterattacks, Mark turned fast and kept up with easily with play. This allowed him to have presence with the players and make correct foul recognition decisions.
- He read the game well. By understanding the technical, physical and emotional levels of the players, Mark allowed the appropriate play-through-contact and applied the needed foul recognition. For example:
To set the game tone, he called a couple of simple fouls, early in the game (8’ minute.)This kept the players focused on fair play as they felt safe with Mark’s foul recognition from the start.
- In the 12’ minute, Mark allowed play-through-contact as a French player went down. Then he followed the counterattack and called an appropriate foul committed by a French player on the opposite side of the field. Both teams accepted these quick and opposite decisions because Mark had set a good tone from the start.
- Mark did not call fouls a couple of times when players went down due to some contact as they challenged for the ball. Mark sent a message to the players that he would not be fooled by diving and/or incidental contact.
- He connected with players and used his acceptance to manage them. Mark’s body language was friendly, slightly touching a player’s back as he talked to them, but firm, giving them the look that says, “No more.” as he talked to them.
All game officials, including AYSO referees, can use these concepts to manage their games. The key difference between the WC and AYSO games is the technical, physical and emotional levels of the players. Therefore, a referee needs to apply the appropriate dose of these concepts based on the three parameters stated above.
Unfortunately, our national soccer team is out of the WC competition. This is good news for Mark Geiger and his team, as he is now considered a neutral referee as long as he is not refereeing a CONCACAF’s team. A semi-final or the third place game is a very realistic assignment for Mark. We wish good luck to Mark and his team along with all the referees for the remaining games.