Johannesburg - A young man in Uganda recently asked me if refereeing required talent or skill. I must say, I was somewhat taken aback by the question, simply because I had never given it much thought.
From my own perspective, when I started way back in 1970/71, it wasn’t something I had even thought about.
I simply loved playing football even though I never rose to any great heights.
I was a reasonable amateur player and enjoyed it very much until, one evening, I was encouraged to join the ranks of the men in the middle - no disrespect to the women who have acquitted themselves well in recent times.
In fact, I’ve seen some excellent performances from our female counterparts and, it has to be said, they’re sometimes better than some of the guys.
But back to the topic at hand.
I can’t really say whether it is a talent or a skill. As I said to the questioner - it’s like any profession, if you could call it a profession.
It needs lots of learning, hard work and a complete and clear knowledge of the Laws of the Game and all its sections and subsections.
Well, they’re stated above, plus there’s a determination to do a very difficult job to the best of your ability.
That means having nerves of steel, forthright determination and a willingness to sacrifice a lot of time and money, in some instances, to do a job that’s thankless and unrewarding, but from which one can gain a tremendous sense of achievement and satisfaction.
I don’t think it’s a talent per se. Match officials come from all walks of life. Some have been bankers, lawyers and have come from other areas of the professional elite.
Others have been policemen, office clerks, road sweepers and have come from the so-called lesser areas of society.
The guy who got me interested was a butcher by trade - this was while I was a musician and playing in bands for a living.
If it’s a skill, then it has to be honed and developed over a period of time, like all skills.
You won’t wake up tomorrow morning after a year or two with the whistle and expect to be put on the FIFA international referees list. If that’s your idea, then forget it.
If it’s your intention to achieve one of those places, be prepared for hard work and sacrifice, because it’s a long, hard and sometimes lonely road to the top. And then, with all that work, you still may not achieve your goal (excuse the pun).
Personally, I was badly let down by soccer politicians in my aim to achieve international status. I was promised so much.
Heaven knows I worked hard enough for it and should have been top of the list, but I wasn’t mixing in the right circles and so “politics” dictated that I was never to achieve my aim of getting a FIFA badge, something I had longed for throughout my refereeing career.
That being said, I gained the respect and admiration of many players, managers and fans whom I had the privilege to encounter during my time in Ireland and South Africa, and received the highest accolade of being recognised as referee of the year in 1992. The previous year, I received the referees’ referee of the year award. Two awards I will cherish forever.
Spitting is a red-card offence.
Spitting at someone is, in my opinion, the ultimate insult. There is nothing more degrading than to spit at or towards a person, whether it is an opponent or an adversary.
In a recent FA Cup fourth-round game between West Ham United and Wigan Athletic, that’s exactly what happened.
The perpetrator, Arthur Masuaku of West Ham United, was banned for six games after he directed his saliva at Nick Powell of Wigan during an altercation.
Although it wasn’t aimed at the opponent’s face, it was nevertheless very wrong.
It was good to see his manager David Moyes describe the incident as “despicable” and confirm that Masuaku would face addition internal punishment from the club.
The player, in fairness to him, admitted it was “totally unacceptable” and apologised.
The FIFA Laws of the Game (Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct) states that spitting is a red-card offence. In fact, it goes on to say that, if a player spits at an opponent or any other person, he should receive a straight red card. This includes spitting at the referee, his own players or a spectator.
In other words, it’s completely outlawed in whatever form it takes.
Referees should be aware of this and no diminution of this law should be countenanced. Refs are advised – straight red.
Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol