The Referees of Modern Soccer

By Georges-Frantz Louis, National Referee Emeritus, NISOA National Assessor

Modern soccer is an experiment in which the players use a multitude of intelligent tactics to expose their coaches’ strategies. Such tactics involve “Deception”, i.e. the exploration of the element of surprise; the “Probe”, i.e. a surge of attacking players through overlapping power; the “Bait and Tackle”, i.e., tease and then swiftly contain the opposing defense; and so on. Of course, Modern Soccer is a game played with the primary objective of winning. Referees must officiate in a safe and intelligent manner that makes Soccer fun to watch and play.

To Referees, Modern Soccer is a challenge in which they must expose the dangerous and deceptive players to the impact of negative consequences when their unfair actions require it, while the other players safely and fairly enjoy the pleasure of positive consequences. Personally, I believe that officiating Modern Soccer is all about morals and ethics. Bear in mind that in this era, unethical participants tend to terrorize and punish the innocents in the game. In contrast, Referees are determined to ensure that soccer is, and must be, played in an absolutely safe manner with the ultimate display of good sportsmanship, thus protecting the “Spirit of Fair Play.”

Benjamin Franklin said: “It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.” Today’s Referees do just that. In reality Referees are trained in such a manner to prevent the mistakes made in earlier officiating periods. Also, today’s Referees develop a personal officiating style that is smooth and more effective than that of the former ones. Such a style or system is based on the principle of “being able to be where the game needs you.” Obviously, in the domain of mechanics, the Referees experiment with new ideological approaches to execute their methods of patrol on the field. Such new resources help them decrease the level of anxiety when analyzing the “Totality of Circumstance”, i.e. to manage players and game situations.

Referees today treat each game situation like a small puzzle as they align both hindsight and foresight in a proper sequence as much as feasible. In essence, today’s Referees are more concerned with being at the right place at the right time, and having the right angle of view for the sequence of play they monitor. The following questions are then easily answered: “What did happen” and “what may happen?) There is no place for either perception or indecision, knowing that participant safety existed before violence ruined it.

In the past, traditional Referees were mostly technical, loud, and sometimes sarcastic. Today’s Referees have developed the option to use common sense when dealing with psychological tactics, and to be technical when punishing unfair physical aggression. To clarify my thoughts, it is my intention to say that Modern Referees have the capability of a “Stealth Bomber” which can silently monitor the targets, and then caution and eject when necessary.

By the same token, for traditional Referees the level of violence allowed in the game was in many cases too high. On the other hand, the Modern Referees despise arrogance and violence. It is clear that officiating focuses on respect, rights, and responsibility. We all want to be famous in our own way as we embrace the reality of life and death. Therefore, try not to be like the last song of the last dance when the Coaches are the DJ’.

It is also clear that Modern Referees primarily focus on safety the same as dangerous players use fear, intimidation, aggression, and violence to destabilize the “Spirit of Fair Play.”

Allow me to take you further down the right path by addressing one of the most powerful theories that can be used to achieve success. In his book: “The Art of War,” Zen Master Shuryu Suzuki wrote: “Knowing the question is the first step toward knowing the answer.” My own research indicates that in the search for success in officiating the Modern Soccer game, that overcoming the fear of failing, (i.e., overcoming doubt and hesitation) is the first step in the war against making erratic decisions.

Consider the odds: for each possible erroneous decision, there is a 10% focus increase in the factors that may influence the outcome of the game. Therefore today’s Referees are trained, molded, mentored, prepared (or whatever other expression you wish to use) in a way that focuses on the safety of all participants. As a result, the Modern Referees are more alert, more cautious, and more realistic than ever, as they strive to help make soccer the most beautiful sport to play or to watch whether on television, in a stadium, or at a local field.

So, read this and believe it. As I say: “With good Referees, long live good sportsmanship, ethics, morals, good teams, and good Soccer!”

To the Referees officiating Modern Soccer, the sky has no limits. Competent Referees make officiating a personal affair. They constantly strive for excellence by being role models to newer Referees, to participants, and an icon of success to Instructors and Assessors. Do I paint the Referees of our millennium as too strong? I do not believe so.

The Referees of today, along with the veteran Referees and expert officials still face the dilemma of deciding in each and every game how lenient they should be when allowing less than an assured safe standard of conduct and behavior in order to adequately manage the emotional high intensity of players in a game. One incredible tool of the trade acquired by the Referees of Modern Soccer is the ability to collect and to understand the administrative, statistical, and technical data on coaches, players, teams, geographical areas, and specifically the type of fans they will meet at the venues.

Referees attempt to manage the game behavior of: losers, winners, and those who are obnoxious, violent, arrogant, or even perhaps supportive. Nevertheless Referees in general have a tendency to overlook players’ strengths and weaknesses. I have previously used the term “The totality of Circumstance.” It entails having a productive position and view that enables the Referee to differentiate a simple puzzle from a significant mystery, to identify the demeanor of the aggressor, and also to value the meaningful, and to disregard the irrelevant.

I have always appreciated and adopted Zen Master Shuryu Suzuki’s wisdom: “The mind of a beginner is empty of the habits of the experts, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all possibilities.” Should the Modern Referees be nothing other than “Cool, calm, and collected,” it would be a disaster to the game of Soccer. Just remember that “together we are the power.”