I have a great amount of respect for referees. It's not easy to perform a job where you know that even if you do not make a single mistake all day, you are going to have some jerk yelling at you. I've been known to raise my voice in frustration a time or two when my view of a play doesn't match up with the opinion of the referee, and so I make it a point to sincerely thank the referee for his efforts after every match.
I have even taken the referees course twice in the last 10 years to better acquaint myself with the rules of the game that I thought I knew from over 30 years of playing and coaching. Boy was I wrong. I knew the basics, but as simple as the game of soccer is, the managing of a match when you are in charge of the whistle is terribly complicated.
I donned the whistle for a few league matches around Huntsville and if you were so unfortunate as to be playing in one of these matches, I apologize. I don't think I did a poor job, but I'm sure some of the players in those matches would volunteer a few words to explain my shortcomings.
I had an even tougher time when asked to run the line as an AR. It is an absolute crapshoot to get the offside call right. I found it nearly impossible to see the passer of the ball, the position of the second to the last defender*, and the position of the receiver of the ball at the exact instant when the ball is struck. By the very definition of the rule, the AR must be looking at three things at the same time. It's no wonder there are so many botched calls all around the world. I did my best, but if there was ever a whiff of doubt that the attacker was onside, I gave the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player. I'm sure I blew quite a few calls, but we all make mistakes, right?
And so I've learned that a French documentary has been released called Les Arbitres (formerly titled "Kill the Referee but now just "The Referees") about that gives us a behind the scenes look at the referees of the Euro 2008 tournament in Switzerland/Austria. In it, we see a glimpse of the pressurized environment in which these guys deal with at the highest level of the game. Here's the official trailer for the film.
Les Arbitres clip one
It is interesting to me how nervous these guys look before the game. If it weren't for the uniforms, you might think they are preparing to play in the matches. As a player, you never think that the referee may be experiencing the same butterflies.
Les Arbitres clip two
This looks to be a fascinating peek at the men who are charged with seeing that the laws of the game are upheld. Somehow, I don't think most soccer fans in the USA, let alone the general public will share my fascination. So, I may have to Netflix this one. :)
* Note: It is the second to the last defender, not the last defender. One of those two defenders is usually the goalkeeper, but not always. I think that's one nuance that I didn't realize for may years when I was in my youth.