Many referees may have experienced the feeling of joy when informed of an appointment to officiate a county cup final. As a Football Referees London, I was extremely joyous.
It was a complete surprise; I had certainly not anticipated the appointment but I was really happy when I had fully read and comprehended the email I received from John Monk “Football Administrator” at the AFA on 15 February.
The email read that I had been appointed as Assistant Referee for the AFA Junior Novets Cup Final. This was my first County Cup final.
I was lining to Neil Rank a well experienced and enthusiastic servant of the beautiful game; alongside Mick Hopkins, another well seasoned colleague. We were the “third team”, as Ian Hunter referred to us in his closing celebratory remarks. The most important teams were Polytechnic 7th Vs West Wickham 7th – both great clubs with a long standing service history to their respective local communities.
Perhaps I will never be part of a team that officiates an FA Cup final, but as Jon Moss was quoted, “Whether it’s The FA Cup or a local junior cup, receiving notification of being appointed to a cup final is a thrilling and exciting moment.” This appointment was equally thrilling for me.
AFA Rewards commitment and hard work
From my perspective, the most encouraging part of being appointed to officiate an AFA Cup, was the reason for which the AFA had made the appointment. In his email (and hard copy letter I received a few days later), John Monk explained “The appointment is a recognition and reward for your efforts and performance over the last year.”
Being recognised for the efforts towards the beautiful game encourages me to keep up my best efforts. For this reason 90% of the time I arrive pitch side at least 40 minutes before kickoff, I ensure my refereeing outfit is spotless, I take pride in informing teams that I have arrived. I ask players for their team sheet, check player equipment and after the match I stay for half a pint; often orange juice.
Refereeing helps one develop useful life skills
I belong to football and as a referee I feel sad when I am unable to go out there and serve the beautiful game.
As the term “association” in the official name of the game alludes to, football is about belonging, it is part of our individual and collective identity. Socialising after the match is an inseparable part of my game.
Over the past two season, I have refereed many games in various AFA sanctioned competitions. Each game has been beautiful and different. Regardless of the level, whether it is a game of 7th teams, or cup final; the feeling of stepping into the pitch, blowing the whistle and being in the “thick of it” is irreplaceable.
The experience of having to recall elements from the “Laws of the Game” is a formative challenge which helps develop a capability that is handy both at work and more generally in life; most importantly, explaining to players “why” the offsite law did not apply when he attempted to kick the ball and played the opposition player on.
Refereeing is a passion I enjoy and I hope footballers see refereeing as both a career for the top flight and as a way of keeping in touch with the beautiful game at grassroots level. Knowing that my game is recognised encourages and motivates me to keep serving to the best of my ability
Written by A. Bytyqi