Gold Cup 2007 (June 2-17, 2007)
A report by Assistant Referee George Gansner

June 2-5 | June 7 | June 11 | June 14 | June 17

Saturday, June 2nd through Tuesday, June 5, 2007

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
The FIFA Referees and Assistant Referees (ARs) from CONCACAF were notified about mid-March that they had been chosen to represent their country at the 2007 Gold Cup. I was one of those ARs, and am here with referee Terry Vaughn (Cedar Rapids, IA) and AR Chris Strickland (Fremont, CA). Terry, Chris, and I have also been selected for the U-20 World Cup in Canada in July...more on that as the days go on. We are to arrive in Miami on June 2nd and be available until June 23rd. (We're departing for Canada on June 22nd, so we know we'll be released before then.)

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a tournament this big. Remember, this is the highest level tournament in our Region - it's our version of the Euro Championships. We have to be at the highest level of fitness possible, because if we're not...we get sent home for not passing the fitness test (this happened to two ARs from other countries). I generally spend 3-4 days a week training at various levels - low, medium, and high intensity, plus working MLS games - to attain and maintain my fitness. Fitness is a top priority of FIFA.

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).

All of the referees and ARs from CONCACAF arrived in Miami on Saturday, June 2nd. Many of us know each other from working qualifying tournaments for U-20 and U-17 over the years (this is my 6th year as a FIFA AR). There are many faces you may recognize if you pay attention to CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying - Archundia (MEX - he refereed the Germany vs. Italy 2006 World Cup semi-final), Batres (GUA), Rodriguez (MEX), Navarro (CAN) and 26 others. Like them or not as referees, I can tell you that each of them are very nice people.

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 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,
George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Thursday, June 7, 2007

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!

Best regards,
George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Monday, June 11, 2007

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 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.

Best regards,
George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee


Thurday, June 14, 2007

Hello from HOUSTON this time. Yep - we left Miami very early Tuesday morning..... This time, though, we don't know if we'll be working another game or not. We are anticipating assignments, but do know know where or when our next one will be...all we know is that we are in Houston.

Monday - Match Day 3. When I last wrote on Monday we were getting ready to leave for the stadium for the last night of Group A's round 1 games. We had heard we were going to Houston on Tuesday, but no one told us when. So, we thought for sure, since there was no reason for us to get to Houston early, we would be on an afternoon flight and have plenty of time to pack before departing the hotel. Well, that wasn't the case at all. When we arrived at the stadium they told us we would be departing the hotel at 5:45 a.m. Normally, that's completely reasonable. This time, however, we had not packed and wouldn't get back to the hotel from the games until well after midnight.

We ended up with about 2 hours of sleep at the hotel Monday night, then got another couple hours or so on the plane to Houston. Upon our arrival, we were picked up and went to the hotel. No surprise, though, that we didn't have rooms ready at 11 a.m. So we went to grab a quick bite to eat next door and when we got back our rooms were ready to go.

Watched the US game Tuesday evening. A nice showing for the USA. But the highlight wasn't the game. It was that several players from the Mexican team were wandering around the mall and, in walks Cuauhtemoc Blanco. There were hundreds of people following him around and many came into the restaurant to get photos and autographs. There were so many people bothering him that they had to call security to allow him to have a somewhat peaceful dinner. Funny - not one of them stopped to ask for our autographs.....

Today, we had breakfast at 8 a.m. and went to Reliant Stadium to do a field inspection at 9 a.m. It's a pretty neat place - I've done a couple games there already, including Mexico vs. Bulgaria, and Barcelona vs. Club America. But, I've never watched a game there - so tonight will be a first for me. And, we're sitting in one of the Suites - even better! The rest of the day - work, work, work. I have to stay caught up and even get ahead if I can. If I don't, I may be looking for work when I get home. So, I have to use all of my time management skills to balance my commitments.

Being a FIFA Referee - Some of you have asked what it takes to be a FIFA Referee, and what my daily grind is when I'm not at a tournament or an MLS game. So, here goes.

First of all, I started refereeing when I was 12 years old (I don't think you can start now until you're 14, but I'm not sure). I began refereeing because my uncle thought it would be good money for a 12-year old...and, it was, but you can't referee for the money as you get older. I worked a lot of games nearly every weekend. Some people told me they thought I did a good job, so I kept going and trying to get better. I always try to do my best - no matter what it is that I'm doing.

I learned what a FIFA referee was, and when I was 14 I set a goal for myself: become a FIFA referee.

We start refereeing at a Grade 8 - eligible to referee youth level soccer (SLYSA was the big league back it is now). From Grade 8, you can upgrade through Grades 7, 6 (State Referee), 5 (National Referee Candidate), and 4 (National Referee) by working a lot of youth and senior amateur games (which is why it's important for us to have such a league in St. Louis).

You have to have a certain number of games and then pass written and field assessments in order to upgrade. It takes a long time, because you have to spend at least one year in each grade level. From Grade 4, you have to work a minimum of 10 Professional Level games as a Referee to be eligible for Grade 3 (National Referee with eligibility for MLS and FIFA candidacy). From there, it's really out of your hands. You do your job as best you can and the administrators decide whether you become a FIFA Assistant Referee (AR) or Referee (CR). By this time, we're focused on our specific job as CR or AR, though. So, you pretty much know where you're going if you do get there.

I have been working MLS games for 11 of the league's 12 years, and have been an AR on the FIFA panel for 6 years. When I got on the list, I was told it was harder to stay on than it was to get on. And, that's completely true. Every game is do or die for us, and if you make too many mistakes you won't be on the list the following year. Remember, as I mentioned in what we covered in our meetings last Sunday (Update #1), every AR decision is critical. Each offside/not offside decision could be affecting a player's bonus or a team advancing in a major tournament - thousands and millions of dollars at stake.

At home, I'm focused on my family, job and training. My job, of course, is something I have to do and takes a lot of time. I cover 19 States as a regional marketing manager - so there are times I'm training more on the road than I do at home. I try to maintain a high level of fitness - so it only takes about two weeks to get ready to pass the FIFA fitness test.

My training during the week tends to be a little erratic based on my travel and family schedule, but I do the best I can to get two High Intensity workouts in (that's 90% or higher of maximum heart rate sustained for 30-45 minutes), and a Medium Intensity workout (80-85% sustained for a minimum of 30 minutes). If I have an MLS game, then the day after is always 20-40 minutes recovery (70-75% heart rate) and lots of stretching. Additionally, I'm watching as many games as I can - both MLS, which has gotten much better for those of you who are primarily Euro league fans, and any Euro league I can find. Sometimes I'll watch the Mexican league on Sundays if I'm going through withdrawal. And, I watch a lot of games on DVD or the "old" VHS versions...hey, you can always learn something, right!

That's about it. I hope I did a decent job sharing what it takes to be a FIFA AR/CR. But, if you have a question, feel free to write me. I'll try to answer right away, but it may take a day or two. Tonight we're off to see the games in Reliant Stadium. Should be's nearly sold out!

George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Good Sunday morning from Houston, and Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!

Today's the BIG game....and, Terry Vaughn, Chris Strickland, Carlos Batres (4th Official) and I were appointed to it. As a referee, it's the game you dream of growing up. Two of the Region's three heavy-weights going at it on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.) on national television (Univision) with more than 70,000 "fanaticos" in the stadium. This one's going to be fun - Mexico vs. Costa Rica in a Quarter Final of the Region's biggest event.

We found out about the appointment yesterday morning just before a ride back to Reliant Stadium to re-check the field. Normally, we don't need to re-check the field, but if you saw any of Wednesday night's games you could see that the field crew had difficulty getting it ready and it wasn't in the immaculate shape it's normally in. They did a pretty good job the past couple days getting it into better shape (though it is painted a little funny - I'm not talking about the field markings, but they painted it green...two shades of green - you'll see if you can catch the game today).

Training was good this week. We were able to get in some high intensity, some medium intensity, and some strength training. It took me a couple days to recover from so little sleep on Monday night, but I'm back on track. So, we're ready for the BIG ready as we're going to be, anyway.

We did our pre-game last night in our room just so we would have some peace and quiet, and knowing we will be pressed for time today. Terry, Chris and I "escaped" last night and had a nice pre-game meal by ourselves. Away from the circus that is the hotel we're staying in. We're at the Westin Oaks at the Galleria - all high-end stuff. Stores like Gucci, Cartier, Sephora, and many, many more. The place has been packed and fans running around all over the place because Mexico is staying across the street at the JW Marriott. Yesterday, a couple sets of fans recognized us (we've all done a number of Mexico games, and a lot of the fans here like MLS, too) and wanted photos. Made us feel good since we're normally getting yelled at by them....

Friday was a special day. We were hosted by a local referee at his Mediterranean restaurant - after he arranged a tour of NASA for the group. It was really fantastic. I would definitely recommend a NASA tour if you're ever in the Houston area, especially with kids. And, the restaurant was directly across the street from the NASA entrance. The owner says the Astronauts come in there all the time - and he has photos to prove it.

This will be my last update from the Gold Cup. There has been enough interest to continue with a couple from the U-20 World Cup. We're going home tomorrow (though we don't know when yet) to spend a couple days with our families and then Friday we're off to Toronto for a month. I hope you've enjoyed these updates as much as I've enjoyed writing them! So long from to you in a week or so from Toronto.

Best regards,
George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee
Home    Archives    Venues    on TV    About Us
©2004-2016 All Rights Reserved.    Bookmark and Share