CHICAGO (Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004) — When Kari Seitz was 14, her soccer coach made her entire team become referees to make sure they understood the rules of the game. A season later, Seitz was the only one of her teammates still officiating. Now, 20 years later, Seitz is one of two U.S. Soccer referees officiating at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
FIFA announced in May that Seitz and Chris Strickland from the United States were chosen, along with eight others from the CONCACAF region, at the 2004 Summer Games. Seitz is one of two female referees from CONCACAF, and Strickland is one of the region’s three assistant referees for the men’s tournament.
“This is a dream come true for any athlete to go to the Olympics,” Seitz said from her home in San Mateo, Calif., before departing for Greece. “As a referee, I consider myself an athlete. It’s going to be interesting. The spirit of the Olympics is very special because it’s shared with so many nations.”
Seitz worked her first game on Wednesday (Aug. 11) as the referee in the shocking 8-0 victory for Germany over China, a game that is already being called the most shocking result in the nine-year history of women’s Olympic soccer.
Seitz became a member of the FIFA International Panel of Referees in 1999. Since then, she has participated in two Women’s World Cups, in 1999 and 2003, and the 2004 CONCACAF Women’s U-19 World Championship in Canada. She was also an official at the U.S. Women’s National Team’s match vs. Canada on July 3.
Strickland is one of five male referees from CONCACAF going to the tournament. He joined the FIFA International Panel of Assistant Referees in 2002. Most recently, Strickland was an assistant referee at the World Cup qualifying match between Haiti and Jamaica on June 12. Upon his return from Greece, he will also be an assistant at a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica on September 5.
The two U.S. Soccer referees left for the Olympics on Aug. 6, and upon arriving spent a few days in meetings and taking fitness tests as they awaited their first game assignments. The duo is part of a contingent of 64 total referees participating in the Olympic soccer tournament, 10 of which are from CONCACAF.
“I want to represent U.S. Soccer well,” said Strickland, who has also been a referee since age 14. “I want to show the world that the U.S. officials are equal to those officials everywhere else in the world; that the caliber of people associated with soccer in the U.S. is the same as the caliber of people associated with soccer everywhere else.”
The Olympics “officially” begin on Friday (Aug.13) and run through Aug. 29, however, the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Soccer Tournaments both got underway on Wednesday (Aug. 11) with the USA recording a 3-0 victory over Greece in the opener. Next up for the U.S. Women is a match on Saturday against Brazil at 11 a.m. ET on CNBC.