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!!! Yay....one 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.