U20 World Cup (June 24-July15, 2007)
A report by Assistant Referee George Gansner

June 22 | June29 | July 1 | July 8 | July 15

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hello from Toronto! I hope everyone is doing well.

I'll get into the past few days in Toronto in a minute, but since today was the Gold Cup Final - I'll start there. We watched the game in an Irish Pub across the street from our hotel. I can't believe it...it may have been the first time I've ever been in an Irish Pub and DIDN'T have a Guinness. That has to wait until after the fitness test on Tuesday. And, with our unannounced weight check this morning (I was where I need to be, but we had a big dinner last night.so I was a little worried), I'm going to make sure I watch what I'm eating a little more carefully.

What a game it was! Terry Vaughn, Chris Strickland and I went to the referees lounge at the hotel expecting to find the game and watch it with our friends from CONCACAF. But, the game wasn't on the local or cable channels the hotel has, so we quickly left the room - our CONCACAF friends had not yet arrived - and went to the pub across the street. It was just the three of us along with a few others already in the pub who ended up watching with us. Very exciting, though, as the game went on. When the US scored the second goal (a terrific goal from Feilhaber), the man sitting in front of me nearly fell out of his seat because he wasn't paying attention and we all yelled! Congratulations to the team, and to Mike Sorber, assistant coach with the team - who I think is in this e-mail group. Oh, and at dinner tonight, the three of us (Terry, Chris and I) put our arms around each other's shoulders and began dancing and singing "Campeones, Campeones" in front of a full dining room of referees from around the world when the Mexicans walked in. It made for a great laugh for everyone!

So, after 3.5 days home last week with my family (my one year-old stood up on his own and took several steps for the first time - how lucky was I to be home for that! - and we had a nice BBQ on Thursday), I boarded a plane Friday morning for Toronto. Other than the guy from Canada who lives an hour from here, I get the award for the shortest flight of anyone here - 2 hours.direct.

Now, let me tell you something. When we travel for FIFA, we travel on a business class ticket. It's nice! Business class seats no matter where in the world you're traveling to. Unless of course you're on a Regional Jet like I was. Two hours cramped up with the guy next to you, small window, and nowhere to go. My first official FIFA tournament and my most direct route is by Regional Jet. Unbelievable.

Anyway, all of the referees arrived from around the world on Friday. Two of the most notables - Howard Webb (ENG) and Wolfgang Stark (GER). Every referee here has earned his place and we're all on even keel. No one is any more special than the other - we're a team.and must perform that way!

Friday was a casual day and by dinner time, most people were getting settled in and trying to get some sleep. Upon arrival we were met coming through immigration (I never knew how difficult it would be coming into Canada) and transported by Hyundai automobiles (they're a FIFA World Cup sponsor) to the hotel. Check in.get to my room.and what do I have in my room but a bag full of Adidas gear. Training and game boots, referee kits & track suites, clothing, etc., etc., etc. I had been told we would get some Adidas stuff to wear, but I never knew it would be so much. We have a schedule of what to wear everyday, and we will look like a team from the minute we set foot out of our room.

Saturday was a classroom session. We reviewed the points of emphasis for the tournament and covered administrative issues. We also did a video review of last year's World Cup. In the early evening, the whole group went for about an hour long walk on the waterfront (we're staying in downtown Toronto), and then I had to get back for my "fitting." Yes, we get a FIFA suit - tailored to our exact specifications. Pretty cool. Now all I have to do is pass the fitness test on Tuesday and I get to stay.

Today was our field practical session, so that was be something new for me. We spent time working together in team drills and testing on our offside decisions. But first was a nice warm-up and stretching. Three hours on the field - and it went by like it was 20 minutes. Tomorrow, we'll do another practical session on the field and learn about how they'll run the fitness test on Tuesday. I'm comfortable with my fitness level right now.especially after having just passed the test a couple weeks ago in Miami.

I'll write again later in the week. Feel free to write to me at ggansner@yahoo.com. I'll answer as quickly as I can, but it may take a few days. Also, my understanding is that all of the U-20 World Cup games will be on Gol TV. Check your local listings!

George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Friday, June 29, 2007

Hello again from Toronto, Canada. We're still here in Toronto, just training and having meetings everyday now. Tonight we'll get our first round appointments and then we'll either disperse to the new locations tomorrow, or we'll wait here in Toronto until it's time to leave for our game.

By reading the above, you can tell that I wasn't sent home for failing the fitness test - we're still here, which means our team of three passed. Had any of the three of us failed the test, all three of us would have been sent home. Three referee teams did fail for various reasons. This probably means that their dream of refereeing at WC 2010 is over.

The fitness test presented a tough challenge! It was grueling - 95 degrees Fahrenheit and not much breeze. It wasn't very humid, but it was HOT! I am very glad we took the test three weeks ago in Miami where it wasn't quite so hot, but was much more miserable because of the humidity. It made getting through this week's test much easier for me...and the others.

Our regimen at this FIFA tournament is a little different than it was for us at the Gold Cup. We're still all together in Toronto and will use it as a base. So, each morning we have breakfast at 7:45 a.m. and depart for the training facility at 8:30 a.m. So far, we've trained each day from 9 a.m. to noon, though yesterday was a little shorter because it was a recovery day from the fitness test. Yesterday, we did light jogging for 10 minutes or so and then did stretching - for about an hour. We did it with a ball, without a ball, with a partner, and without a partner. It was good for the body after getting beat up in the sun the day before.

Yesterday, I went to the physio here for the first time. I've been having some trouble with tightness in and around my hips - in Miami, the doctors said it was the Soaz (spelling?) muscle, but here they think it's a lot more than that. Anyway, we're working on getting that area of my body stretched and loosened up so I'm more comfortable. Back to the physio - his name is Mitsu and he's from Japan. He has an interesting technique of finding out if something's wrong with you - and it's pretty much fail safe.

Basically, he asks you to put your fourth finger (next to the pinky) and thumb together as tightly as possible. You squeeze, and he pulls (or tries to pull) them apart. Not a big deal...right! WRONG! He takes your left pointer finger and places it on different parts of your body - different muscles or joints. If there's no problem with the area your finger is pointing to...your fingers stay tight together. But, if there's an area where there is weakness in your body...your fingers come easily apart - and that's how he is able to tell if something's wrong with you. It sure keeps you from being dishonest in case you didn't want someone to know there was a problem. Amazing! And, he uses a chart of your back and bones to do the same thing where you can't reach.

After my analysis with Mitsu, he asked me to turn over so he could begin....get this...an acupuncture therapy. It's the first time I've ever had that done. And when he was finished, I felt significantly better and much looser than I did before. So, I don't honestly know if it works, but what he does is amazing and it made me feel better. I'll keep doing it!

We did individual and group photos this morning. They get it done pretty quickly because we're under some serious time management. After the photos, we did another field session - it was a "Speed Endurance" day - warm-up with light stretching and then some speed work. In the field practical session, this time we focused on teamwork and offside decisions. These are the types of training sessions we like as referees - actively working toward a result. We need to do more of this on the local level.

Well, I think this is already getting a bit long. So, we're looking forward to watching the US play tonight against Argentina. And, we're looking forward to getting our appointments for the first round and finding out which city we'll be in tomorrow or over the weekend. We think we're going to Victoria, but that's only pure speculation. More from wherever I am when I get there....who knows, could still be here in Toronto!

George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hello from VANCOUVER!

Friday was dispersal day for the referees - at least for those who either had a game in the first day two days or had to travel to the West Coast of Canada. The US crew, along with a couple other crews left early Friday morning. We were sent to Vancouver with the German crew for the games on Sunday.

My US crew will referee the Jordan vs. Zambia game. I thought it was going to air on GolTV, but I didn't see it in the lineup for tomorrow. So, it may not be on in the US.

As we prepare for the game, I am learning that Zambia is in South Central Africa and has a population less than the State of Missouri. English is their official language, so that should help us. And, Jordan is bordered by Isreal, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Their language is Arabic, but most people speak English as well.

Friday was a long day...5 hours on a plane from Toronto to Vancouver. For FIFA games we usually fly business (or First) class. However, the airline we flew doesn't have first class, though they have TVs in every seat - so that was nice. But, we were mostly interested in sleeping. Unfortunately, we were on the same flight as the Canadian Football League's British Columbia team who had beaten the Toronto Argonauts the night before in Toronto....and, we all had middle seats - between the football players. Imagine sitting on a cross-country flight in a middle seat -- for 5 hours! -- that doesn't recline (I was in the row in front of the exit) with two lineman on either side of you. Now, I'm 6'2" and 200 lbs. My shoulders aren't too small, either. But these guys were 6'4", 300 lbs with shoulders that could have reached across all three seats. At least they were nice guys....right!

It was great to get a good night's sleep and do a light workout this morning. It rained here a lot yesterday, but I think that's typical for this part of the world. The climate is pretty much the same as Seattle - considering they're only 100 miles apart. After the light training and stretching this morning we played a 4v4, two-touch game against the Germans. It was a lot of fun - and we won! Not that there was a whole lot of hard play, but it's always important to win...even if there's nothing at stake.

We're sitting here getting ready for tomorrow's game by watching the opening match from Montreal. Howard Webb is the referee and he's doing a nice job setting the tone for the whole tournament. The first game of the tournament is extremely important for all of the referees and teams. Everyone's watching! If the referee of that game lets them play too much, or they get away with things off the ball, it's bad for the whole tournament.

Also, all of the players/teams went through the same classroom instruction we went through - and the referee instructors did the training for the teams, just like they did for us. So, the message is clear as to what they should expect. It's kind of nice this year - there are no new rules FIFA is trying out...we get to go referee the game we referee all year long. Same focus points as the Gold Cup and in general as of late: eliminate the bad tackles, eliminate elbows, and help make the game fair and fun. That's all - nothing special.

This afternoon we'll do some sight seeing and then do some more homework on the teams we're refereeing tomorrow.

I hope you can catch the game tomorrow. On July 4th, there's a doubleheader where Scotland plays Nigeria and Japan plays Costa Rica in Victoria, BC. We don't know what games we'll have from here, but we do know that we're going to Victoria on Monday - we assume that's for Wednesday's round of games. On Thursday, we'll go somewhere else....we just don't know whether that will be Edmonton, or back to Toronto - hopefully, I'll get a window seat this time.

Best regards,
George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hello everyone! I'm sorry that it has taken so long for me to write another one of these. It's been a long and challenging week on many levels.

As you know, we were sent to Vancouver last week and refereed the first round match between Jordan and Zambia. It was a difficult match, but overall everything was fine.

The morning after the match we were sent to Victoria, BC by plane. The plane never got above 5,000 feet...and it's only a 15 minute flight over the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. If you've never been to Victoria, or Vancouver Island, I recommend you plan a vacation there as soon as possible. The place is amazing. From my hotel room at the Grand Pacific Hotel, I could see the snow-capped mountains in Washington State and the Straight of Juan de Fuca. The hotel is located on the Victoria Harbour right next to the BC Parliament Building, which is absolutely fantastic in its architecture (see some of the photos on the link below). There are so many places to walk, eat, bike, boat (including whale watching, but we didn't do it), etc. that you could spend so much time there. And, it's so relaxing.

While in Victoria, we refereed the 2nd round match between Scotland and Nigeria. Both are very physical teams and we feel like we had a very good game there.

The day after our 2nd round game we did a quick early morning recovery training and then left for the airport to fly back to Toronto - where we've been since Thursday. Now, everyday we have breakfast, training, lunch, debrief of the previous day's games, watch the first game, dinner, watch the second game, and go to bed (it's been a challenge to fit a couple hours of "real" work in everyday). We'll find out whether we'll get another appointment in the next two days - both of which are "rest days." The US team is doing well, so I don't know how that will affect our (US referee team) chances of getting more assignments. But we'll see.

In Toronto, we're staying at the InterContinental overlooking Lake Ontario. Right out my window (because I have a different room with a much better view this time) is the CN Tower (which we'll get to visit on Tuesday) and Rogers Centre - where the Toronto Blue Jays play. They're in a homestand right now, so we need to decide whether we'll try to take in a game. There are lots of people outside the stadium right now, so I guess there's a game this afternoon.

There's a U-20 WC game tonight here in Toronto that we're all going to get to go to (those of us not working, that is). However, there's also an INDY car race today - the Grand Prix of Toronto...and, the stadium is in the middle of the race track. It's raining, too, which means they may have to delay the start of the race - so it's going to be interesting to see how they get 22K people into BMO Field for an 8 p.m. kickoff when the car race doesn't end until 6 p.m. I'll try to let you know how that goes.

I had a request to tell you all about the Fitness Testing we do - fortunately, we only need to do it one time during our time here. The referees and assistant referees run exactly the same test, but there are two slight differences. In the 40 meter sprints, the referees must run them in 6.2 seconds, while the assistant referees have only 6.0 seconds. And, the rest/recovery period in the endurance test has to be completed by the referees in 35 seconds, while the assistant referees have 40 seconds. So here's the test:

6 x 40 meter sprints with 1 minute 30 seconds recovery between each sprint (if you miss a time, you get one retake at the end...miss two = fail the test)

10 minutes rest

150 meter run in 30 seconds with 50 meter recovery walk (in time specified above) - minimum of 10 full laps around the track (if you miss the gate - even by one step - before the time runs out, you get a "yellow card." If you miss the gate a second time before the test is over, you get a "red card" and you're out. In this case - one guy from your team misses and your team goes home, no matter where you are from in the world.)

They stopped us at 10 laps when we took the test in Miami for Gold Cup, and here for this tournament because it was so hot - 95 degrees.

I want to wrap up with a comment about my wife and son. Remember, I've been traveling now since June 2nd with only 3 days home in between tournaments. That means my wife has done everything around the house that's needed to be done - landscaping, normal house work, etc., taken care of our 13-month old son by herself (actually, thank goodness grandma and the neighbors have been there a LOT), has a full-time job, and is training for the O-30 Women's Amateur National Championships in Seattle (Aug 3-5). I don't know how she does it, but she's been amazing with her support and her work to achieve her own goals. So - thank you Jen...I love you!

If you've read to the bottom of this, here's a link to some photos from the Gold Cup and the U-20 World Cup downloaded from the camera of Terry Vaughn. I hope you enjoy them....and, can figure out which person I am if we haven't met.


Talk to you soon.

George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The US referee crew is still in Toronto, but we have a feeling that's going to change on Tuesday. We haven't received a game in the knockout rounds, and they only need five crews for the next three games. So, we think we're going to be among the released referees on Tuesday.

This past week was spent mostly training - each morning we have a three hour fitness and technical training session. Both the fitness training and the technical sessions have been very good. I'm learning some new things to do to maintain/improve my fitness. We haven't done much more than train, eat and find time to get some "normal" work done.

I (we) did get the opportunity to see each of the USA games here in Toronto. And, as we get VIP tickets and hospitality passes, Terry Vaughn, Chris Strickland and I were able to spend a few minutes talking with US Soccer President Sunil Gulati and Secretary General Dan Flynn. I know some of you know Mr. Flynn, and I can say that both are tremendous individuals and have done great things for our sport on many levels. At least two other notables we got to rub shoulders with were US Men's National Team Coach Bob Bradley (whose son Michael had excellent tournaments for both the Men's Senior - Gold Cup - and U-20 teams), and Austrian Men's National Team Coach Andreas Herzog. Mr. Herzog played for the Los Angeles Galaxy after his career with the Austrian National Team and time at Bayern Munich, among other teams. There were many other high-ranking officials from FIFA and other confederations, as well.

My time here has been a great learning experience. I've been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with some of the world's top referees and have made some good friends. I've also been blessed with an amazing, loving and overachieving wife who has spent the past 6.5 weeks taking care of our house and son without me. And, one of my favorite parts of this job...I've been able to see some parts of the world that many people never will.

I've enjoyed bringing these updates to you, and I hope you've enjoyed reading them. I'm still open for questions, as always. If for some reason we are kept here for the next week and get a game, you can bet I'll write another update. But otherwise, I look forward to seeing everyone the next chance I get to come by for a game at OB Clark's.

Best regards,
George Gansner
FIFA Assistant Referee

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