Monday, November 17, 2008

The Final Games

Upon my return to Auckland, from Christchurch, I found out that the appointments for the final games would be given out that evening. As I had refereed a semi-final, I knew that I would not referee either of the medal games, but there was a chance that I would be a 4th official. Also, because USA was in the final (against Korea), the only appointment that I could receive was a 4th official on the bronze medal game.

That afternoon we had a recovery training session in the gym where we rode the bike and ran on the treadmill. This was followed by stretching and abdominal work. After a quick shower we were back in the debriefing room for the semi-final debrief. That was stressful! Having only 2 games (as opposed to the usual 4 games), means that you are under the spotlight even more. And my game definately had some major decisions in it to talk about. I'm not going to lie...there were beads of sweat running down my back! As is the case with all games, there were some things to improve on, but all of the major decisions held up under video replay. Thank God, it must have been all those crossed fingers and toes!

That evening, daht dan na (I have no idea how to spell that, but imagine the sound)...the final envelope appeared. Bronze medal game: Natalia, Vivian, Judit, and PYE!!! more game. Gold medal game: Silvia, Cleidy, Maria, and Kirsi. I was very excited that I would get to be part of one of the medal games. It would also be my 6th game of the tournament (3 middles, and 3 fourth officials).

When we arrived at the stadium Sunday morning, we noticed that there seemed to be more activity than usual. There were a lot of people in FIFA suits, media vests, and a ton of security guys, and I'm talking HUGE guys. There was one guy in the hallway whose job it was to stare at the locked FIFA storage door. I think the trophies were in there, but can you imagine, standing in a hallway for 8 hours, staring at a closed door. When I walked past I said, "having fun?" and his reply was, "not really", poor guy!

The game itself was fairly uneventful. Germany ended up winning 2-0 and were definately the better team on the day. I was fairly busy as a 4th official because both teams used all their subs (3) and of course there were a few injuries as all the girls were tired and playing hurt. And as you can imagine, all of this happened at the same time.

After the game we went up to the VIP lounge to watch the final. Mr Blatter (FIFA president) was unable to attend, but Franz Beckenbauer (a German soccer superstar), was there, and I got my picture taken with him, as you probably already saw at the top of this post! The final game was very entertaining. USA scored early in the 1st half, and held the lead for most of the game. Korea was able to tie the game up in the 78th minute which sent the game into extra time. In the second period of extra time, Korea scored again and hung on to win. As soon as they scored, the referees from the 3rd place game had to rush downstairs because we were part of the medal presentations. It was so cool to be down on the field with all 3 medal teams. There were over 16,000 people in the stands waving flags, playing drums, and generally just yelling! The dignitaries were lead in with the medals and trophies. The golden glove, golden boot, and fair play trophies were awarded. Then the referees for the bronze medal game went up and we received our medals, followed by the referees from the gold medal game. The medals are so cool, they actually say on the them, Referee 3/4 place. Then the teams went up and received their medals. Standing on the field, watching those players who had been working so hard for so long receive their medals - what an amazing thing to be apart of! It is kinda neat too, because I got to referee all 3 of the top teams.

As we boarded the bus to head back to the hotel for the last time, I felt a bit sad. It was hard to believe that this adventure was coming to a close. We had been in New Zealand for 28 days, met some really great people, refereed some future national team stars, and learned so much about soccer, and ourselves, it was hard to believe that we were nearing the end.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Semi Sweet!

It is currently Saturday evening in New Zealand on Nov 16th and I am just sitting in the Internet Room on my last night. I will back up a few days and let you know what has been going on here.

The day after I found out that I would be retained until the end of the tournament, I was notified that I would be refereeing the semi-final match between Korea and England on Thursday Nov 13th in Christchurch. Yay!!! One of my goals when I arrived in New Zealand was to visit all 4 cities of the tournament: Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, and Christchurch. I had refereed in both Hamilton and Wellington, and I have been living in the Hyatt Regency in Auckland for the past 4 weeks…so…Christchurch was the only city I had left to visit, and to have the honour of refereeing the semi-final there…so cool!

Me and my team of Mayte (Mex), Yvonne (El Sal), and Kirsi (Finland), left for Christchurch on Wed evening. We arrived at the hotel around 9pm, had dinner, did our pre-match meeting, and went to bed. The next morning we had breakfast and then spent a couple of hours (and a couple of dollars) out exploring the city and buying some souvenirs. Christchurch is called the “Garden City” and has a strong English influence. It is a beautiful old city with a square in the center with an old cathedral. There is also a 6 km park in the heart of the city with 30 soccer fields and a free golf course. While we wandered around, we talked to a lot of people (well I did most of the talking as I was the only one who really spoke English), and it was neat because everyone knew about the tournament and were excited to meet us. That is the difference between a big city and a small city!

The morning of the game I was, of course, nervous, but really excited. I had refereed both teams before so I knew what to expect, although, having said that, a semi-final match adds a whole new level of pressure to the game. I have to say, it was an extremely competitive game with many difficult decisions. At the end of the day, I am happy with my performance in the game. Korea beat England 2-1 and because of the close score, the game never really let up. In the 90th minute, one of my assistants rolled her ankle pretty badly, and I stopped play to go over and see if she was OK. For a moment, we weren’t sure if she could continue, and the 4th official may have to replace her, but…she stuck it out, and finished the game. Immediately after the game, she was taken to the hospital for X-rays, but it was just a sprain, and she will be as good as new in a few days.

Being part of such a highly competitive and important match was a great experience. It was heartbreaking to see the faces of the England team after the game. They have all worked so hard, it’s just too bad that everyone can’t win! There’s the teacher in me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Release Dinner

I am so sorry about the huge delay in updating my blog. I thought that the last week would have a lot of down time, but there hasn't seemed to be much time to do anything at all...strange. I will break down my last few days into a couple of blogs to prevent those of you who actually read this, rather than just looking at the pictures, from having to read a novel. On Monday Nov 10, we had a farewell sunset cruise on a boat. Nothing more romantic than a dinner cruise with 50 women, and 8 men, dancing was rather interesting! A couple of nights before, we were informed that each confederation would have to put on a short presentation that represented their countries. We had only 5 people from CONCACAF and I have to say...I thought we were pretty good. We did a combination of each of our countries. For El Salvador we did a dance (Coumbia..?), for Canada, we sang "O Canada" (hilarious), and for Mexico we sang "Cielito Lindo" (again, hilarious). I have say, all the presentations were very good, and it was so cool to see each region perform dances and songs that were native to their area. It was also nice to get out of the hotel and enjoy an evening with each other.

The next day the referees who had been released all left for the airport. It was a tough day, with lots of mixed emotions. On one hand, you were happy that you were staying, and on the other hand, you were sad that you had to say goodbye. Goodbyes are always difficult for me, and in this situation, I had met a lot of good friends and was sad to see them go.

At dinner, we were provided with the much anticipated appointments for the semi-finals on Thursday. Again, Edgar walked in with an envelope and read off the appointments for the 2 matches. First match, Korea vs England....Michelle, Yvonne, Mayte, and Kirsi. Second match, USA vs Germany....Cha, Min, Lee, and Natalia. I had a semi-final....whooooo.... so excited! Cross those fingers again....1 more game to go!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And the Adventure Continues...

Last night we had a meeting at 9pm, once all the referees had returned from the quarterfinal matches. We were all pretty sure that the purpose of the meeting was to inform us who would be staying, and who would be going. Obviously we were all very nervous and the tension in the room was high. Edgar came in with an envelope which said, “Final Referee Appointments”. He then thanked everyone for their contribution and hard work over the past 3 weeks, but unfortunately we would not all be continuing on in the tournament. They had decided to keep only 5 referees and 10 assistants. Considering that we have 14 referees and 26 assistants, those aren’t really good odds. Like I said before, I really wanted to stay, but considering this is my 1st FIFA tournament, and I have only been a FIFA referee for 2 years, I knew there was a good chance that I would be going home. If this was the case, I would be happy with my 1st experience and proud of how I performed both on and off the field.

Anyways, once Edgar had said all his thank yous (which I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t really hear), he opened the envelope and read the names. And guess what, he read my name…Pye, Michelle…heheheh! Yay! I was so excited. To be one of only 5 referees chosen to continue in this tournament is such an honour. I am very proud to be able to continue to represent CONCACAF and Canada. There are only 4 games remaining, and 5 referees, so obviously one of us will not get a middle, but for me, just being chosen to stay is very exciting. I have heard that the FIFA president, Mr Joseph Blatter will be at the final game…maybe I will get to meet him!

So, it looks like my adventure is going to continue for 1 more week. It feels like I have been gone for so long (which I guess I have), but I have learned so much, and met so many great people. I am not sure when the appointments will be given for the semi-finals, but I will let you know as soon as I find out what they will be. I hope everyone is well, and things are good in BC (or wherever you are from!). I am really missing my Venti Vanilla Tea Misto with Awake Tea and non-fat milk and sugar-free vanilla. Yeah, I am officially one of those….those annoying Starbucks snobs!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Down Time

Lately we have had a lot of down time. Well...that's actually not totally true, we have had a lot of time with no games. Well....that's not really true either. I, have had a lot of time without games. The quarterfinals were played yesterday and today. Yesterday, North Korea beat Denmark and Germany beat Canada. Both teams were expected to win and both games were very fair with only 10 fouls in the 1st game! Today, USA beat South Korea and England beat Japan. Both of these results were unexpected...especially Japan losing. They were huge favorites to win the whole tournament.

I did not have an appointment on any of the quarterfinal games which meant that I had training every morning. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE to train (huge eyeroll), but getting up every morning at 8am to head out for training does get very tough. We train for 2 hours everyday. 1 hour of fitness, and 1 hour of technical training (game situations). It is really, really good as I have learned so much, but please, just 1 day to sleep in :(

We have done a bit of shopping in the last few days...and I use the word "bit" very lightly. I may, or may not, have bought another pair of running shoes. They're so nice! We also went on an outing, in normal clothes...yay... to the SkyTower (a really tall building), which overlooks all of Auckland, and to the local market, where I did some more shopping. We also organized a movie night with all the referees. Unfortunately I showed the movie, 40yr Old Virgin, which was a bit in appropriate. The next night I showed , Step Up, which was so much better. I have now been termed "Cruise Director", so I was thinking about playing a bit of shuffleboard tonight! The weather here is finally a bit sunny, and I am working on getting rid of my "ghost in the pool" look. We have a meeting this evening to find out (I think), the appointments for the final 4 games. I am hopeful that I will get another game, but if I don't, I am also very happy with my tournament so far. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Two Down! I have officially refereed 2 World Cup Games, and I am happy with both of them. Yesterday I refereed the match between Germany and Korea DPR. This was an important game as it determined 1st and 2nd in Pool B. For Korea, they needed to at least tie to ensure that they made the quarter final because if they lost, and Guana won, Korea would be out.

I worked with a new crew for this game. Yvonne (El Salvadore) was with me last time, but my other assistant, ,Vivian (Netherlands), and Kirsi (Finland)were new. It was a good team, and the atmosphere before the game was very relaxed. The evening before the match we did some meditation and visualization with Esther (psychologist) which was very helpful. I definately felt more calm before this game than I did before the last one because I knew what to expect and I had already been to Hamilton 2 days before so the stadium was familiar.

Both teams were so well-behaved that they really didn't need me there. I called only 18 fouls in the whole game and had no cautions. Those are the games where you can let your guard down and then mistakes happen, so I worked very hard to make sure that this was not the case. Germany scored in the 4th min against the run of play, and Korea DPR was able to tie the game up early in the second half. From that point on, I really got the impression that both teams were happy with a tie, and so was I!

Today we had a recovery training session in the pool, and this afternoon we are going to the Stadium in Auckland to watch the 2 games there (England vs Korea and USA vs France). It is cool when we go to the stadium because we get to sit up in the VIP lounge and there are hot drinks and snacks for us. They even have waiters that serve food on platters...we are so important! hahah

I have also included a photo of our aerobics training session from the other day. That was funny! Watching referees try to do aerobics!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Guess What?

I have another the middle...yay! I will referee the match between Germany and Korea DPR tomorrow afternoon. I am excited to get another match and I am going back to Hamilton where I just came back from, which is good because I am familiar with the stadium. I must go to a debriefing meeting right now where we talk about the matches and watch clips from the past 4 games. I will write a bit more when I get a chance in the next couple of days and I'll be sure to add some more photos. I hope everyone is doing well back home! I miss all of you, but I am having a great time!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One Down

and hopefully more to come! What an experience in my 1st ever FIFA appointment. It was such an honour to be part of a world cup game! On Wed evening me and my equipo (team), flew to Wellington (about an hour flight) where the game was to be played. We had some difficulty getting our oversized bags, electronic substitution boards, beep flags, and my 'boyfriend' (communication system) onto the plane with us. When we travel for a game, we MUST carry on our bags because if, for some reason, they don't arrive...we would be better to not show up! So, after a bit of sweet talking, we were able to get everything on board.

Once we arrived in Wellington, we were met by our driver "Paul" (I think everyone here is named Paul), who took us on a small tour of Wellington, which is a beautiful habour city. We checked into our hotel, and found out that Rhianna and Chris Brown were staying there too, because they were doing a concert in town that evening. I kindy asked the concierge to not let them bother me for an autograph as I was very tired from my flight! :) Are you kidding...I stayed up as long as I could hoping to see them, but I didn't...too bad!

In the morning we left the hotel at 9:30am, actually no, by the time we left it was almost 10am because my spanish-speaking team did not understand when I told them to bring their white blouse for the game, so they brought their white T'shirt which meant that I had to go back upstairs to change!

We arrived at the stadium and went to do the field walk. This stadium was amazing! They call it the "caketin" because it is perfectly round. They use it for cricket and rugby and the soccer field could be marked north/south or east/west, it is that wide. Apparently there were about 10,000 spectators at the game, but it sure didn't seem like it because they were so far away from the field!

I have to say, walking into the stadium with the FIFA anthem playing, was an amazing experience. I was really excited to be part of all of it. So cool! The number of people who are volunteering is huge, ball boys, flag bearers, etc...

The game itself was also very interesting as you had 2 totally different styles of soccer, but both teams played at a very fast pace. England scored the 1st goal in the 71st min and the Brazillian GK was injured on the play and had to leave the field. Not a minute after the replacement GK came in, England scored again. This really took the wind out of Brazil's sails, and they were not able to regain their composure. Finally, England scored one more goal in the 84th minute to make the final 3-0. I had one yellow card for each team for recklass tackles, and no problems with the players at all. They were very respectful of each other, and of was a great game to referee. I am happy with the job that I did and hope that I did Canada proud.

My next appointment is on Sun as a 4th official for 2 matches in Hamilton. The first game is between USA and Paraguay and the second between France and Japan. These should both be very good games.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The appointments have been released for the 1st 8 games. I will referee the game between Brazil and England. Yay! I am really excited about this game because I think it is going to be a good game with 2 football (soccer for those of you in Canada) powerhouses. There will definately be contrasting styles of play which will make for an entertaining game to watch. We have been working with the communication system in training for the last 2 days, but it hasn't been working that well, mainly because there has been 3 or 4 other crews using theirs at the same time so there is a lot of interference. Yesterday, my team and I went for a walk to the post office and Starbucks (oh yeah!), and we wore the headsets. We looked like undercover cool. Hopefully the system works for use tomorrow. During the game I will be wearing a huge belt around my waist with a transmitter in the back. I will be wearing the Polar Heartrate belt on my chest, and the beep flag armband on my left arm...can you say RoboCop! I am just getting ready to leave the hotel for the airport, as my game in is Windy Wellington, so I will try to post some pictures later. My game is at 12pm on Thursday and I am not sure if it will be televised in Canada. I believe you can go to the website and they may have some clips of the game. Again, cross your fingers, toes, and anything else for me. Let's show them what the Canadian can do!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Daily Life

Well, I have been here now for 1 week and have gotten myself into a bit of a routine. I have to say, we definately are leading a pretty nice life here in FIFAland. The daily schedule is posted each morning for us on the board. It tells us what to wear and when we need to be where ever it is that we need to be! For those of you who know me, you know that I am a planner, and so this has been an adjustment for me. I will give you a rundown of what my day is basically like.

Each morning I wake up around 7:30am, by a wakeup call from the frontdesk. They will actually offer to call you back in 10mins if you would like a little snooze, sweet! Then I head upstairs for breakfast, along with my bag of laundy. We are allowed to get up to 6 items a day washed(only our adidas stuff) and it is paid for. I have a quick breakfast of cereal, yogurt, toast, and fruit each morning. I am going to have to change this up a bit because 20 days of this is going to be tough! There are always so many options, but I am trying to have something light.

We board our bus at 8:45am to head out for training at our own private field. It belongs to a private school and we have sole usage of it for the next 3 weeks. It's pretty neat, the field comes with players too...that we use for our technical portion of training. The training consists for 2 parts: fitness (1 hour) and technical (1 hour). During the fitness component we do a warmup, agility training, tempo runs, abdominals, stretching, and a cool down. Our technical sessions focus on mechanics, decision-making, and movement on the field. There are always a few drivers, etc around to help out at these sessions. They bring water and poweraid for us, as well as umbrellas for the instructors!

We usually get back to the hotel around 11:30am. We shower, at least I know I do, and I will check emails, read my blog comments (which I love by the way!),and sometimes I will have a nap. Lunch is between 12:30 and 2pm and always so many food choices.

In the afternoon we have a meeting. The meetings range from technical topics, to tournament stuff, to filling out match reports, and even video quizzes. Yesterday we were given the appointments for the 1st 8 games, but I will talk about that in the next blog.

After the meeting we will go for a walk, take a nap, email, watch TV...whatever... it's free time. Somewhere in there, my laundry magically appears back in my closet, on brand new hangers! Dinner is between 7:30 -9pm. And then I usually get a massage and I'm off to bed. I know, it's a tough life, but someone has to do it!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


The fitness test is done...and over! Thank god! We left the hotel at 8am and headed to the track. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. Not that I doubted that I would pass, but worried about the "what ifs". What if I slipped on one of the sprints, what if I pulled a muscle...etc. You know, all those things that you have no control over...that is what I was worrying about. I just kept telling can do this, it is the same test you have run 20 times, this one is no different. The bus ride to the track was very quiet, and we were a small group (13), only the referees. The assistants were coming later for their test. Just as we boarded the bus...rain, and I don't mean just rain, but RAIN...sideways, it was crazy! But, by the time we got to the track, it was just a drizzle, and as we finished our warmup, it had stopped. The problem was that now the track was wet, and that made it slippery. So, for the sprints (40m), I made sure that I didn't start too fast so I didn't slip. I just had to make sure that I ran hard the whole way. Get this, ever single one of my sprints were 6.3....all 6 of them, weird, eh? On to the intervals (15om + 50m recovery). I wasn't too worried about these because I have done them so many times that I knew the pace, and last week I ran a practice test and did 15 laps. For the test we were doing only 10 laps, so I knew I could do this. I ran in a group of 4 girls and we worked really well together. We took turns leading and helped each other out when we needed was good. It was such a great feeling to be finished and the best part...all 13 referees passed...awesome!

That evening we had the official referee dinner with members of the FIFA referees committed and the tournament organizers. We all got dressed up in our brand new FIFA suits (freshly tailored), boarded our bus, and went out for dinner. The food was amazing and at the end of the night, we were all presented with our official tournament medals! It was a great day!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The First 2 Days

Wednesday was my 1st full day here. We spent the majority of the day sitting in the classroom going over Tournament Information as well as specifics of the Laws. We had presentations from all of the Referee Instructors/Fitness Personnel and our Mental Preparation cool is that! We had a break for lunch and then, back into the classroom for some more education. We played a game where Sonia threw a ball at us, and asked us a question. Things like....where are we? What other cities are going to be used for the games? What is your job?, question....How many countries are there in FIFA? Are you kidding me? So I say...209 (I think that's the number of bones in the human body!) and guess what....I was almost right! There are actually 208 (I'm sure that one dropped out recently :) hehehe. In the evening I went for a massage, and then off to bed. I have to say, I am sleeping like a log! It's amazing.

Thursday morning we got up and boarded the bus for training. We spent about 2.5 hours doing a variety of warmup, agility, and technical exercises. It was a fairly light session as we were going to be running the fitness test the next morning. For the technical part, we had a team of boys (~14-15 years old), who came out to basically foul each other over and over again. It was amazing how creative they could be in the different ways they came up with to take each other out and they didn't stop there, they would even start pushing matches afterward to ensure that we continued to deal with the situation even after the fact...impressive! After training we headed back to the hotel for lunch and then our accreditation appointment. Mine didn't go so well. I could not seem to get a picture with my eyes was so funny (probably not to man who had to keep trying to take my picture), eventually we got one! Afterward we had another meeting to deal strictly with the fitness test. We were told....if you fail, you are going home. Something I already knew, but to hear it again, it definately makes your heart beat a little faster. Merere, one of our fitness instructors, showed us a video of the test so we would know what to expect the next day. We were also told that we would all be using the Polar Heartrate Monitor belt so that they could track our heart and how hard it is working. It's all so high-tech. Speaking of high-tech, I found out today that we are going to be using the communication systems (headsets) when we referee....I am so excited! Now I will have someone to talk to while I am out perfect! But first, before I think about all that....I have a job to do...pass the fitness test. Off to bed to get a good night sleep. Think happy thoughts for me! Cross your fingers and your toes and anything else you can cross!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I have arrived in Auckland, and I have to say...that was the best 15 hour trip I have ever been on. Flying 1st class was such a treat. I got on the plane and sat in my "pod", put my feet up, and opened my very own bottle of water. One of the stewards gave me my over-night bag, complete with toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, revitalizing foot spray and slippers. I started watching "Sex in the City", but fell asleep, and then tried to watch "Baby Mama", but fell asleep again! I must have slept at least 10 of the 15 hours. I woke up, had breakfast, and then it was time to get off the plane in Sydney, Australia.

I had an hour stop-over in Sydney, where I was invited to use the "lounge" where I could get a bite to eat, have a shower, and use the internet. Then I got back on the plane for 3 hours and arrived in Auckland.

As soon as I got off the plane, I was greeted by a tournament representative, and a customs officer, who helped me get my bags, and pass though all the customs/security checks without having to wait....WOW! I felt so important!

When I arrived at the hotel, I received a huge adidas bag of uniforms, etc that I had to quickly try on because the adidas rep was almost closed for the day. Almost everything fit, with the exception of my jerseys (kind of important) which were all a size large (no, I did not order a large), but unfortunately, because I was the last one to arrive, all the smaller sizes were gone. I guess I'll be doing some serious "tucking in" for the next month!

Once I had all my kit, I went for dinner, which was unbelievable - all the food that was there. Then I signed up for a massage, came back up to my room to unpack, and went back down to get my 30 minute great! I had another good night's sleep and woke up this morning feeling really good. I am hoping that I have avoided any jet lag...knock on wood.

So far, this has been an amazing experience. I am really looking forward to the rest of the tournament. I can hardly wait until the games start!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

T- 7 Days

Here we are....7 days until departure. I'm starting to get really excited, but also feeling a bit overwhelmed. There seems to be so much to do. I can hardly wait for the moment I sit down on the plane, and my adventure begins. Until then, it almost seems surreal.