Gold Cup 2007 (June 2-17, 2007)
A report by Assistant Referee George Gansner
Hello to all of you from Miami, FL and the home base of the referees for the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007. I am George Gansner, FIFA Assistant Referee, from St. Louis and an OB Clark's patron and STL United e-mail member.
After discussing with a couple of people on this list, we thought it might be interesting to give you an inside look at the Gold Cup and some of the things the referees do - but I don't have a way to blog right now. I'm going to try to do this often, maybe every couple of days - depending on our schedule. So, if you don't have any interest, I apologize in advance for the couple e-mails you will receive over the next couple weeks. Just hit delete when you see something from me. This one's a little long - the rest won't be nearly like this. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy being able to share the time with you. (This was written Tuesday. I'll follow with another e-mail shortly.)
A Little Background
We also spend time researching the teams in the tournament, making sure we know their histories, who their players are, and what their tactics tend to be. We have to be at the top of our game. It's really a lot of work (and this is outside my normal job as a regional marketing manager for a major light bulb manufacturer, as well as husband to a wonderfully supportive wife and dad to a one-year old).
Saturday was a free day to get everyone here and acclimated (our own Chris Strickland and two Canadians flew the furthest and crossed all of our time Zones). On Sunday, we had a full day of classroom work - watching videos, hearing presentations, and getting instructions for the tournament. I can tell you that we have been told to eliminate violence, manage dissent appropriately, and be consistent (the hardest thing of all). There is a focus on offside, too, because every decision that is made by an AR is critical to the outcome of the game. It was a long day with breakfast until 9 a.m., classes until 5 p.m., then dinner at 7:30 p.m.
Monday - fitness testing. We departed the hotel at 6:30 a.m. (remember, for the guys on the West coast this was 3:30 a.m. their time) for Tropical Park - home of the USL's FC Miami. The track was rubber, but older, hard, and worn by the South Florida elements. The referees were running first, then the ARs. For me, the fitness test is a very difficult thing mentally. I am fit enough to pass it, and I know that - I train and practice the test above the minimums - but for some reason I am a mental wreck before taking it....every time (any psychologists out there...I'm open for discussion on how to keep this from happening in the future - like, in Canada next month). To make matters worse, it was 85 degrees, sunny, and very humid (I said 120% humidity, but the guys didn't believe me). I never sleep well the night before an early flight or the fitness test - I got an off-and-on 4.5 hours. But, I passed. We (US crew) all did, and that means we get to stay at the tournament. The rest of the day was for relaxing, getting "straightened out" - I got my first ever "adjustment" and it feels great (they have doctors, chiropractors and massage therapists here for us for the first time ever - absolutely first class).
Monday night we had dinner with CONCACAF President Jack Warner. It is a nice honor that he elects to spend time with the referees prior to the tournament. This is the second time I met him - last time it was U-20 World Cup Qualifying in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Tuesday - dispersal. We were told Monday night (some maybe earlier) at which venue we were going to be based. Obviously, the US crew won't work US games, so we knew we wouldn't be going to the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles (then Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA). We are based in Miami (no four-or-more hour flights for us!!!) at the Orange Bowl. The other option, though we don't get to choose, is Giants Stadium inNew York (then Reliant Stadium Houston, TX). We met the other referees at 8 a.m. in the lobby to wish them all well in their games and safe flights. They were off - and for us...the rest of the day is working our day jobs (I'm lucky that my company lets me work remotely), working out, stretching and getting massage, and preparing for Wednesday's first games. In other words, we're in Miami and I'm couped up at a hotel - a nice one, but a hotel nonetheless.
So, I'll end here for now. Not sure which game we're doing tomorrow yet - will find out "officially" tomorrow. If you want to write me personally, my e-mail address is email@example.com. I welcome your e-mail and promise I will make every effort to answer what questions I can. This will be shorter next time, too. Also, if someone knows how to blog and wants to set one up, I can do that too - I just don't know how.
Yours in soccer,
Hello again from Miami!
It's Thursday today and we're done with all of the good stuff for the day. Yesterday was game day, and today things are pretty quiet (which means we did alright yesterday).
Game days are actually kind of boring. We spend the day focusing on the game, making sure we know the logistics for the evening, and doing our pre-game at the hotel. For those non-referees on this e-mail, pre-game is actually where the referee crew sits down before the game to talk about making sure we're on the same page with our mechanics (I don't want to show the referee a signal he's not expecting and vice versa), our team preparations, and we cover anything else that may happen in the game that we need to be prepared for. Pre-game meetings can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
Yesterday we (US crew) worked the second game which was Haiti vs. Guadeloupe. We were very happy to be working this game because it was a re-match of a game played earlier this year between the teams that resulted in a 3:1 Haiti victory, and we knew it would probably be a good match.
We departed the hotel around 4:30 p.m. for the stadium with a police escort (my wife thinks that police escorts only happen in other countries when you do a bad job). When we arrived at the stadium, we dropped our bags in the locker room and did our pre-game field walk. Our crew got to watch the first half of the Canada vs. Costa Rica game, which Canada won 2:1 in what was considered an upset. Our game went well - 1:1 with four cautions and only 23 fouls - so we were able to get out of the stadium in record time after the game.
Our fourth official was Marco Rodriguez from Mexico. Marco is a celebrity for sure. He is known in Mexico and all of Central America as Chiki Dracula - or Chiki for short. Walking to lunch on Wednesday, a pickup truck drove by and the guys inside started yelling Chiki, Chiki! They turned the corner and came back for an autograph. Then at the stadium while doing our field inspection, a few people in the crowd started yelling the same thing. If you don't recognize him from the Dracula description, you'll see what I'm talking about on Monday when he referees his game.
Today we had breakfast and a meeting to discuss last night's games. Our assessors, both former FIFA Referees - Esse Baharmast (US) and Antonio Marrufo (MEX) - said both games went very well and we helped get the tournament off to a good start.
After the meeting, I got to come to my room for a couple hours for a conference call (darn day jobs) and to get some e-mail done before going for a short recovery workout. A recovery workout consists of about 20 minutes on the treadmill at a 6.5, 10 minutes or so on a stationary bike at level 6 or so, and about 20 minutes in the pool stretching. Then we went to the massage room and got the soreness rubbed out of our legs.
That's about it for today. Tomorrow is an off day for us again, so we'll get a nice workout in (along with our day jobs again) and hopefully get to see the space shuttle take off tomorrow night - though from a distance (it's about 180 miles from here to Kennedy Space Center). We're also going to try to catch the US game tonight vs. Guatemala (hopefully many of you will be at OB Clark's watching the game together). On Saturday, our American crew is on the first game - Canada vs. Guadeloupe - but Terry Vaughn will be the fourth official, Chris Strickland will be Junior AR (far side), and I'm going to be the Senior AR (bench side). The referee will be Neal Brizan from Trinidad. It should be fun - I got to work with Neal in Mexico at the U-20 WCQ in February.
Talk to you again on Sunday. Enjoy the game tonight!
Well, it's Monday morning and we now know (or at least we think we know) that we're being sent to Houston tomorrow. That's subject to change, of course, based on our performances tonight...and, for that matter, the performances of the other referees and group results. But, at least we have some direction because we only have one breakfast certificate left!
Friday - Off Day. Friday was our second off day in a row. If you look at the schedule, each group has a set of days where they get two days off between games. Our group's was first because the other groups are both traveling - LA to Boston, and NY to Houston, respectively. We should be in Houston on Wednesday when the third games from Group C are played. That should be fun considering anyone can win the group at this point.
Friday was laundry day. We walked a couple blocks from the hotel to a coin laundry to wash our stuff. It was time....let me tell you. Puma gave us a lot of stuff to wear around the hotel, but even that only goes so far. It was a little scary. I don't know how much you know about Miami, but outside of the small area known as the Financial District it can get a little sketchy. At one point, the little hispanic ladies running the "Lavanderia" quickly locked the door when a car pulled up and this guy jumped out. Once the guy got back in and the car pulled away, they unlocked the door. Nothing happened, but it was not how I wanted to spend my Friday. We did walk down to the Bay Front Center to watch the Group C games in the evening. It's about a mile from here and not a bad walk (we've done it three or four times now). The Bay Front Center is near the Port of Miami, so many of the tourists go there before departing or after returning from a cruise. Basically, a few restaurants and lots of shopping.
Chris Strickland and I took the day off from training to give our bodies and legs a rest. Terry Vaughn, one of US Soccer's new Professional Referees (see www.ussoccer.com for more on this program) did a high intensity workout since he was working Saturday's game as fourth official.
Saturday - Match Day #2. As I said before, game days are boring. We pretty much just get prepared for the game, do our pre-game, and rest. Nothing special. It was a good crowd (about 25,000 according to the newspaper) at the Orange Bowl because Haiti and Costa Rica were playing each other. I'll call it "festive" - lots of singing and music and chanting for 90 minutes. A great atmosphere to be a part of.
Sunday - Off Day. Yesterday was a complete recovery day for me. I only checked e-mail once and spent much of the day doing absolutely nothing (don't tell my wife, please - she's at home this whole time working her fulltime job, tending to household matters and minding our one year old. She told me on Thursday our neighbor was cutting our grass and my son went to the window and started yelling "Da....Da..." She had to tell him it wasn't "Da" and that "Da" would be home next week....maybe.) So, while Chris went shopping with the Jamaicans, Terry and I went for a run and then a massage. Terry did a high intensity workout again - 30 seconds running (high pace), 30 seconds jogging... for 30 minutes - since he's fourth official again tonight. I did another recovery/medium-level workout - jogging for 20 minutes at a heart rate around 158 (about 85% heart rate max) and stretching for another 20 minutes. We jogged over to Brickell Key where there's a path around the small island. It's a luxury property location - so we were just happy not to be kicked out.
Assignments. Today is Match Day #3 for Group A. I am working the second game - Canada vs. Haiti as AR1 (bench side). The referee for the game is Marco Rodriguez (MEX) - better known as Chiki Dracula. If you get a chance to watch, you'll know why he gets his nickname (8 p.m CDT.... ONLY ON GALAVISION). Marco refereed at the 2006 World Cup as CONCACAF's third referee (replacing a very disappointed referee who got injured). Chris has the night off, and Terry is the fourth official on the early game - Costa Rica vs. Guadeloupe. By the way, don't discount Guadeloupe...they're leading our group right now with four points.
I mentioned in note #2 that we have a meeting the morning after the games to review the previous night's matches (which won't happen tomorrow since we're all departing - some home, some Boston, some Houston). But, it's at the end of that review meeting that we get our appointments for the next Match Day. I don't know the rhyme or reason behind the appointments, but they are what they are. It's difficult to work with guys you're not used to working with, not to mention the language issue: Marco speaks Spanish...with a bit of English, I speak English/German...and, just a bit of Spanish, AR2 speaks Dutch/English/Spanish (Mr. Baesch, from Aruba) and the fourth official speaks English (Mr. Campbell, from Jamaica). This will be challenging, but the bottom line is that we're all referees and we all have the same job to do. I'll let you know how it went in my next e-mail.
Well, this is getting kind of long. Next time I'll go into what it takes to be a FIFA referee. I'll give you a little taste of what we do, and what a typical week is like for me at home. Until then, enjoy the games....and I hope you're still enjoying this e-mail.