The U.S. Soccer Referee Department is always interested in adding referees to the program who have high-level playing experience. One such individual is Victor Petroni. Petroni was the 1985-86 MISL Goalkeeper of the Year. He is also a former college coach and is currently the Director of Coaching at Atletico Flames Futbol Club in Elizabethtown, Ky. Victor was a registered Grade 5 Referee and is currently a registered Grade 7 Referee Assessor.
Can you outline what you emphasize when working with young officials?
VP: “My main focus with all the young referees is, not just understanding and applying the rules, but to remember that this is a player's game. We need to place ourselves into their shoes and play and feel the game in our minds and hearts. We need to look at their eyes and read what they are thinking. Many of us have the fitness, intelligence and hutzbah to look and present ourselves as qualified referees, but do we actually live and breathe the sport and give it its due respect and love? Soccer is a very passionate sport, no matter if it's played at the World Cup level or at the Under-9 level. To the players it always matters.”
How did becoming an official impact your play as a professional?
VP: “As a professional player, I found that, once I began to officiate and understand the mentality of the officials, my game was elevated to a point that I was able to achieve All-Star status. It helped me to see how much control and influence they had, read their body semantics and understand the rules and how they would apply.
What do you believe are important characteristics of good officials?
VP: “When I work with my younger peers, I tell them that perhaps the most important characteristic for an official is to have played the game at a high level and to constantly keep themselves fit and alert. Of course, you have to have excellent managerial skills and be composed under pressure, but, without playing the game, we will never be able to understand the true dimension of those that we work for.”
“Many of my fellow referee friends are constantly amazed at how the players that I officiate always seem to have a tremendous respect for me. I tell them the reasons are:
1) You must be humble,
2) You should always be willing to admit your mistakes and be ready to correct them if need be,
3) Work as hard as you can to give them the best game of their lives,
4) Be strong of will but pure of heart,
5) That you don't always have to be right, just make them think you are,
6) Know the rules, how and when to apply them,
7) Remember Law 18, and, lastly,
8) HAVE FUN!”