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This weekend was the San Tan Ostrich Festival Tournament that is no longer just being held in the East Valley. Originally, this tournament was held in Chandler, then it expanded to Chandler/Gilbert, then Chandler/Gilbert/Mesa. Now it is Chandler/Scottsdale/Phoenix, with the fields at Snedigar Sports Complex, Scottsdale Soccer Complex, and Reach 11.

The tournament organizers did us a favor and placed all the U10 and below at Snedigar, with the U11-U14 at Reach 11 (for the most part), and the U15 and above at SSC (with a few U13’s thrown in there due to lack of field space at Reach 11). I got to watch all three of my son’s games at SSC – unfortunately, they went 0-2-1 (two losses and a draw). In between and after the Saturday games, I refereed 5 games, and then spent all day Sunday at SSC doing another 5 games.

Saturday’s games were pretty benign – I had one issue where a player decided to send an elbow into the gut of another player and when I got the center ref’s attention, I was chastised for wasting time with non-important issues. Really? Elbowing players is not important?

Sunday, I finally got to ref two U19 games. One was a consolation, the other was a final. THAT was fun, even if the consolation was at 1pm and hot as blazes.

Monday was my last day refereeing at the Barney Indoor Sports Complex. It’s been four years, it was time. Naturally, it was the final week of playoffs, and the championship game once again pitted Bulwark against Real Madrid. RM had Bulwark by the throat for a bit, even being up 2 goals at one point. But one thing I’ve learned after watching this team win again and again and again is you don’t piss them off, and that’s what happened. Somewhere, somebody said something and the next thing I hear after another RM goal was scored was a Bulwark player saying, “They want to play that way? That’s just gonna piss us off”, and then they went and dominated the remainder of the game. Final was 9-6.

There was a “foul” in the first half that I didn’t see because I was screened (hence the quotes) that I’m sure if I saw it, I would have called it. But since I can’t call what I can’t see, c’est la vie. There was a boarding call in the last minute of the game after it was out of hand. There was a DOGSO-F, but indoor rules state that requires just a Blue card and a PK, instead of a red. There were three other PK’s, there was physicality, there was trash talking, it was a glorious game. :)

The second best game, however, was the game right before, with ENFC (which stands for Extremely Nutmegged Football Club) against Chelsea. With 3:45 left in the game, Chelsea is up 3-0, and they fatally decide to take their foot off the gas. ENFC scores four times in a span of two and a half minutes and wins 4-3. Chelsea did have a last gasp – with 10 seconds remaining, ENFC fouls a Chelsea player, I hurry up and get the place in place, one pass, one touch and a shot into the bottom left corner, only to have the keeper save it right as time expired. It would have counted had it gone in.

And finally, I got to play in the final game of the night – Past R Prime vs. The Barn team. PRP was short a player, so I got to jump onto the field and play. It was fun to be out there as a player instead of a ref, and I got a good workout for it – made no mistakes as a defenseman, stepped up and took away balls that the other team was not expecting me to do so, and in the second half, played as GK – the ref gave the other team a goal that I saved on the line because he knew it was my last day and was trying to needle me a bit. (He also gave me a red card after the game was over for failing to leave in a timely manner ;)

I was sad to go, but also knew that I had put in a lot of work and set a standard for years to come for that league, and for that I am happy.

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So Isabella had her first cheer competition on Saturday, and her team came in first place! Granted, it was a “prep” division for teams that were half-year, not full-year, but it’s still a win, and it still counts! Her team was pretty much awesome. Nearly flawless routine – but of course the judges have to deduct points for anything at all – and it was actually fun to watch all the other routines too. (Even the Tohono O’Odham Nation had a cheer team entered!)

Afterwards, home, then off to Reach 11 for Dominic’s second game of the Sereno Showcase tourney (his team, Alliance, won the morning game 5-0). This one ended in a 1-1 tie, but they definitely had at least three bonafide chances that should have been converted. There was also a controversial no-call in the penalty area by the center ref – Dylan was attempting a cross from left into the the center and was knocked down as he was making the attempt. For me, that would have been a call, not sure why the CR didn’t make the call unless he was still in high school mode (NFHS games tend to be a LOT more physical – mostly because the majority of the refs are not 100%-year-round soccer refs but multi-sport refs).

Today, three games for me at Quail Run park, then back home. The last game was memorable because it was Sereno Nogales vs Sereno East (Chandler) – and one of Dom’s old teammates from indoor (Georgie) was on Sereno East. Seven yellow cards in this game – five for Nogales (unsporting behavior – late tackle from behind, unsporting behavior – undercutting an opponent in midair, persistent infringement, failure to respect distance, and unsporting behavior – off-ball hip check), two for East ( late tackle, dissent). There was also a concussion in the first half, and the East team tried to substitute the player back into the game about ten minutes after it happened (um, not). East won, 1-0.

Didn’t make it to Dominic’s third game (also a 1-1 tie), but apparently Dom’s team spoiled the tournament shutout bid by their opponent, being the only team to score on them while playing with 10 1/2 men (one of the Alliance players was injured and they had no subs available due to injuries and suspensions).

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So, I just got back from an eventful night of soccer – I refereed a small-sided U11 Boys game (Division 2) where the two teams were undefeated, with the winner getting the inside track to winning the division (though, both teams were going to end up being promoted to Division 1). I say small-sided because in a U11 game, the field is 70 yd x 45 yd, instead of the usual 110×70. There’s also only 7 field players + goalkeeper on the field, so this makes for a lot of up-and-down running.

It was a good game, in any case. The visiting team (“Yellow”) was designated the “home” team, because the game was rescheduled from a different location due to weather. Yellow also won 3-2, but the home team (“White”) came really close to evening it up at the end, with 5 shots on goal (none on target though) in the last three minutes.

Then after the game, I went over to Williams Field high school to watch the end of the Division II semifinals between Queen Creek and Marana Mountain View. (QC won, 3-0.) There was some uncomfortable flashbacks there, as I recognized several parents who were classmates of mine in junior high (though I forget names). Marana Mt. View was the school that opened up in 1986, and I was supposed to go there for high school as a freshman – all but one of my junior high yearbook signatures said “See you next year at Mt. View!” – but I opted instead to go to Salpointe Catholic.

However, I showed up on the Mt. View campus every year, sometimes twice, as Salpointe would play Mt. View in one sport or another. Always a loss for Mt. View – my “old friends” were never happy to see me on the sidelines of the opposition. Soccer was always the worst for Mt. View, as the coach would allow me to walk around behind the team’s bench. (Once, we won 5-0, and goals #4 and #5 were nutmegs on the keeper, a person whom I had known and played AYSO soccer with for a long time… yeah, that was awkward.)

So, back to present at Williams Field HS, and I opted not to say anything to the people I had known from “way back when”. I didn’t want them to think I was rubbing it in, because once again, here I am at a Mt. View game, and Mt. View loses.

But I thought about it. Boy did I think about it. :)

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Three straight days of refereeing – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Saturday started with two recreational league games (U9-11 combined) as center referee, followed by two Port Of Subs Open League (POSOL) games a couple of hours later, one as assistant, the other as center.

Sunday turned up four games at the SC Del Sol Desert Classic out at Riverview Park in Mesa. I ran as a center, an assistant, and two more centers, one of which was a Final that ended as a 0-0 tie and went to kicks from the mark.

Last night was the usual four games at the Barney Indoor Sports Complex.

It’s a challenge, to say the least. Four different sets of rules to keep straight – Rec league, POSOL, tournament-specific, and indoor. I forgot to wear my pedometer on Saturday, but Sunday and Monday combined I ran 13 miles. I would probably guess that Saturday I ran about 5 miles (the rec games were on a short field, and I was an assistant on one of the POSOL games). So a conservative estimation would be about 18 miles for the weekend. Nice!

The only note was the during the Finals game, which of course got a little heated (as much as 12 year old girls can be aggressive), was that the parents on the sidelines started off with the usual complaints for calls and quickly stopped when I became more visable with the approach (actually stating loudly “offside” and giving a motion for a jersey tug or a handling violation). Now we’re not supposed to give an indication of what the foul actually is as a center, we’re just supposed to indicate direction of the free kick, but realistically, more and more players and coaches want to know “what was the call”, and making it easy to see immediately eliminates all those questions. I just wish that USSF would start utilizing signals like that more, because right now, it’s just up to the individual referee.

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That’s the number of cautions I issued today in one game – a U14 Girls Division 1 game. Six. And they weren’t all for the same thing – in fact, five of them were for completely different issues (all of which were in the second half of the game):

  • Persistent Infringement – A26 was pushing her opponents in the back (or knocking over the opposing goalkeeper) all first half, and her first foul in the second half earned her a caution.
  • Unsporting Behavior / Tactical Foul – A39 first impeded, then held her opponent from being able to play a ball down the right sideline.
  • Unsporting Behavior / Deliberate Handling – in the penalty area, A35 jumped at least two feet in the air with both arms above her head, and contacted the ball with a forearm. She subsequently attempting to claim she was trying to protect her face (not when you jump up in the air), and then when that tactic failed, claimed that the ball actually hit her in the shoulder.
  • Unsporting Behavior / Late Tackle – A24 tried a hip-check about 5 yards in front of me way after the ball had left the area, then complained that the opponent was pushing her (not true).
  • Dissent – The Head Coach didn’t like the call on the late tackle and kept asking to “call it both ways”. I told her “That’s enough, you need to stop,” twice, then went over to her sideline and told her “I’ve asked you to stop twice, since you’ve decided to continue, here’s your caution. If I have to talk to you again, you will be finishing this game from the parking lot.”
  • Dissent – At the pre-game conference, both teams were warned that there would be no shenanigans related to parking oneself in front of a free kick and forcing the kicker to ask for the 10-yard distance. Both teams instead were to immediately back away or else be cautioned. So, in the 68th minute, a free kick is given just outside the penalty area near the right sideline. A30 parks herself about 7 yards from the ball and I tell her to move back because her captain had already been warned pre-game. The result? “Well you didn’t warn me.” So she got her warning.

Ok, so one would think that was the end of it after the game, right?

Nope.

I walked back to the referee tent with the referee assignor and received lots of congratulatory comments from the referees still there – mine was the last game of the day for this club and many of the referees were hanging out to watch the game after theirs had completed. I was asked to explain the caution to the HC and the caution at the end in the corner; several referees mentioned that they didn’t think they could have given the HC a card in that situation. I was doing so, and the HC happened to be walking by the tent. She starting glaring at me and talking in a very loud voice about red cards and how the other team got away with everything. It was obvious that, even though she was walking away with no one around her, she was talking to me.

Almost all the referees were watching her walk away, and after she was out of earshot, one of the other refs said, “Well, I don’t think she’s made many friends today for her future games.” No doubt!

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