History Is Made on Two Fronts
For U.S. Soccer supporters, the 2002 World Cup will be remembered for the incredible performance of the U.S. National team. Advancing to the quarterfinal round, on the world stage was the result of years of tiring work by players and coaches alike. Who would have thought that the US National Team would make it to the top 8 teams - noone but the players and coaches.
Over the past 4 years, U.S. Soccer has made tremendous strides on the world stage. Over the last 3 weeks, the player's dreams quickly turned into reality and moments of World Cup 2002 will be permanently etched in their minds as well as in the minds of the US soccer family. WELL DONE! The
US National team made history.
World Cup 2002 also made referee history as I have been selected as the first American referee to be retained by FIFA until the final (June 30). Although the accomplishment is on a much smaller scale than the breathtaking results of the National Team, it is still important to the worldwide perspective of American soccer and American referees.
This was a momentous decision by the FIFA Referee Committee. Why? Because my selection as well as the selection of Markus Merk (Germany) and Carlos Simon (Brazil) marked the first time in World Cup history that FIFA retained referees, from the quarterfinals on, whose teams were still participating in the tournament. Normally, all referees whose teams advanced past the round of 16 were sent home. FIFA used "merit" as justification for their decision.
After the round of 16 games, the FIFA Referee Committee meets and reviews the performance of the referees and assistant referees. This review consists of an evaluation of referee inspector scores from prior matches and "other" factors that are beyond explanation. From this review, FIFA selects the group of officials for the final rounds.
For Korea/Japan, FIFA has kept 16 referees and 16 assistants. This means that some referees and assistants may not receive an assignment. Although this may seem unfair, FIFA wants to ensure that it has several available options for each assignment and a pool of 16 gives them this option.
It is difficult on the referees because being retained means two additional weeks away from family and friends and there is no certainty of a future assignment. Patience, patience, and patience becomes the referee's daily motto.
As we are all competitive individuals, we would not have gotten this far if we weren't, the passing of time becomes a psychological battle. Waiting for the next game, which may not come, is the battle. Keeping yourself mentally fit becomes a bigger challenge than staying physically fit. Consequently, I am spending as much time as possible outside the hotel sightseeing, shopping, and swimming in the hotel pool.
My waiting is over as I have received a final round assignment as fourth official on the Brazil v. Turkey semi-final – a rematch of a 2-1 Brazil win in group play. The referee will be Kim Milton-Nielsen of Denmark. I am the only non-European to be assigned in the 2 semi-final games.
I am proud that I am the first to represent the U.S. in the second phase of the tournament. It goes to show that dedication, hard work, and sacrifice can reap benefits for yourself and for the U.S. Soccer community. Just as the players will have the moments of the 2002 World Cup etched in their minds, I too will have memories of my games, my accomplishments, and of all those that supported me and have contacted me during these past 4 weeks.