Page 14 - Referees

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J
uly 2011 saw the city of Bucharest
host the annual UEFA U19 Final
tournament. Seven teams from
across Europe joined the host nation of
Romania for a two week festival of
football, which would ultimately see the
Spanish team add to their recent
successes at senior and U21 level, with a
thrilling 3-2 victory against the Czech
Republic. As with the 2010 FIFA World
Cup, it was an English referee, Stuart
Attwell, who oversaw the Final and he
gives a unique perspective on the
tournament.
It is a great accolade to be appointed to any
international match, but to be involved with
a final tournament is evenmore prestigious.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise to get a
call fromThe Football Association inmid-June
to tell me that I had been selected as one
of the six referees for the tournament. As is
normal for this kind of appointment, all of the
match officials were informed of the need
to complete the FIFA fitness test before the
start of July. Fortunately, Simon Breivik, the
PGMOL Head of Sport Science was on hand to
devise a training plan which would enableme
to prepare effectively for the test, and travel to
the tournament in the best possible shape.
Unlike the World Cup, officials are not
selected in teams but work alongside
colleagues from other nations. This can
be challenging both on and off the field, as
cultural differences, language barriers, and
alternative refereeing philosophies have
to be addressed to ensure a successful
team performance. However, this is also an
extremely positive part of the experience,
and can enhance learning and development
for all involved.
With the first match day scheduled for
Wednesday 20th July, UEFA arranged for
the match officials to arrive in Bucharest
on Sunday 17th. As is usual at this level, a
fitness check was scheduled for the Monday
morning, under the supervision of the two
sport scientists, who would remain with
us for the duration of our stay. Thanks to
the preparation work that I had done in
the UK, I completed the test comfortably,
performing well in the endurance and speed
based activities. The profile of the matches
necessitated this kind of assessment, and
we were clear that anything less than 100%
fitness would compromise our involvement
in the tournament. This point was underlined
later that day, when one of the match
officials was forced to return home after
suffering an injury during the session.
Whilst the importance of being physically
ready cannot be underestimated, we also
spent a lot of timeworking together on
technical matters, to ensure a consistent
application of the laws and competition rules.
By following this process, UEFAwere able to
generate understanding between thematch
officials, and also highlight areas of importance,
such as protecting the image of the game,
simulation and holding in the penalty area.
Following thismeeting, the appointments
formatch day 1were announced, and I was
delighted to be refereeing the openingmatch -
Spain v Belgium.
Given that this was the opening game, I was
keen to get my tournament off to a good
start, and wanted people to be talking about
football, rather than refereeing decisions.
Fortunately the game settled down quickly,
with both teams looking to play football. I
was aware fromour pre-match briefings from
David Elleray, Jozef Marko and Kyros Vassaras
(all from the UEFA Referees Committee) that
there were possible problems with electrical
storms in the vicinity, but it didn’t appear
as if they would cause any problems. After
Spain took a 12thminute lead, I spoke with
the fourth official for an updated weather
forecast, as the stormwas moving closer.
Such was the speed of the storm, it was just
four minutes later that I took the decision
to take the players off the field, as I had
significant concerns for their safety. Over
the next hour, we continued to assess the
weather conditions, before taking the step
of abandoning thematch – quite an unusual
occurrence at this level. Following the game,
it was clear that UEFAwere happy with the
way things had beenmanaged, and both
teams and thematch officials returned to the
stadium24 hours later to complete the game.
It went very well with no significant issues.
Following the re-arranged match, I was
immediately appointed to referee a very
competitive match between the hosts and
Greece, which although challenging, went
very well frommy perspective. I was satisfied
with my two performances in the group
stage, and was optimistic about the chances
of being retained for the knockout stages, a
decision that was made following the final
round of group matches, where I acted as
fourth official to the Norwegian referee, Tom
Harald Hagen.
Immediately after the final groupmatches,
we were told whichmatch officials would
be staying for the semi-finals, and who
would be returning home just 12 hours later.
I was pleased to seemy name on the
‘retained’ list, and after saying our goodbyes,
I started to think ahead to the semi-finals, and
how I might be involved. This became clearer
the following day, when the appointments for
the semi-finals were released. I was appointed
as fourth official to the Kazakhstan referee for
the Czech Republic v Serbia. Whilst I was keen
to referee, I was also aware that the referee for
the Final would likely be one of the semi-final
fourth officials.
UEFA U19 Finals:
Romania
Stuart Attwell – FIFA Select Group referee
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