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 0-1-2 (one draw and two losses). 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), and 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 ball 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.