Selected as match officials for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, U.S. Soccer FIFA Referee Jair Marrufo and his fellow crew members, U.S. Soccer FIFA Assistant Referees Frank Anderson and Corey Rockwell, are documenting their journey through India.
Learn more about the crew’s journey to India, what it’s like to be a referee at the world’s top youth national team tournament.
- READ: U.S. Soccer Referee Crew in Full Swing at 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup
- READ: U.S. Soccer Referee Crew Gets First Taste of 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup
- READ: U.S. Soccer FIFA Referee Jair Marrufo Selected to Serve at FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017
This is our last blog of such a memorable tournament as we finished up 4 weeks in India together. First, we will start around Day 22… All games were assigned 48 hours in advance and during dinner and it was time to announce the quarterfinal assignments. Each game was announced, followed by the referee crew. Then the words:
“Quarterfinal Assignment: Germany vs. Brazil”
The room went silent as everyone knew this was a big game and a passionate rivalry, waiting to hear which crew would be assigned this huge game.
“Jair Marrufo and his assistants from the United States”
Our hearts immediately jumped as we instantly knew what a big assignment this was. We took a few minutes to receive best wishes from our fellow referees in the room, finished our dinner, and immediately went to work to prepare for the game.
The Germany vs. Brazil game was historic for several reasons. This was the first time ever that a USA Men’s Trio has ever refereed a knockout game at a FIFA World Cup Tournament (a “trio” is a referee + two assistant referees). Additionally, it was the largest attended soccer game in U-17 World Cup history, with over 66,500 people in attendance.
The pictures show us before the game. We all relax and gather our thoughts on our own, then Jair gives us last minute instructions before we hit the field as a team (also in the picture are the 4th and 5th official for the game, who were from Venezuela). We are all aligned and on the same page just minutes before we walked onto the field.
The atmosphere was electric and loud the entire 90+ minutes and Brazil came from behind to win 2-1. We finished the game and Brian Hall immediately greeted us in the locker room with a big smile on his face. He, along with all of our referee colleagues and FIFA Technical Staff, were extremely pleased with our performance. It was a historic and memorable game for everyone involved.
Many people asked about food, and we always ate together as a group. The options were very Western meals, as every lunch and dinner offered a chicken dish, a meat dish, fresh salads and fruit, fish, and pasta. There was also one local Indian dish offered with every meal along with Indian Flatbread called Naan, which we always enjoyed. Finally, warm desserts and ice cream were available each meal. But we could not eat too much because once per week, we had to step on the scale and our weight was tracked to ensure we were not gaining or losing too much weight during the World Cup tournament. The picture is where we ate every meal, seated with our referee friends from England and Scotland.
After the quarterfinals ended, a trip was planned for us to travel to Kolkata’s famous New Market area to go shopping. New Market is an outdoor area with wall-to-wall merchants and shops. Since it was quite obvious the three of us were not local, we had many offers from store owners begging us to come into their store as we walked in the crowded streets. We enjoyed these few hours walking around, and on the way back, Corey fell asleep on the bus so we took the opportunity to get some revenge since he posted sleeping pictures of Jair in the first blog. The bus rides we took were always accompanied with a police escort, wherever we went, to clear traffic out of the way. In India, cows frequently walk in the busy 6-lane roads so we were always careful to avoid the cows while riding to and from our destinations.
With only 4 games left, most referee crews would have to depart and we were in that group that left before the semi-finals.. We were honored in receiving a medal and banner with the U-17 tournament logo, as shown in the picture. Since this was the first FIFA Tournament for Frank and Corey, they both received a commemorative watch recognizing their first FIFA Tournament.
After almost 30 days on the road, we are all back home but already preparing for our next assignments. We have great memories from India but we put these behind us to focus on next games as some of us already have FIFA and MLS assignments within weeks of returning to the US.
In summary, Referee Team USA went to India for the FIFA U-17 World Cup and we had a goal to be excellent. We crushed it over there and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We thank everyone who supported us, mentored us, and cheered for us while we were over in India and we look forward to seeing you on the pitch back here in North America soon!