Jacob Lehane headed out to Northern Ireland to officiate in the 2017 Northern Ireland Super Cup on Sunday 23 July, whilst Ruebyn Ricardo enjoyed some international experience in Denmark – officiating in the 2017 Iber Cup.
Find out how they got on by reading their personal diaries below:
The Super Cup - formally known as the Milk Cup - is one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in the World. Teams from every continent come to Northern Ireland as a great way to start the new season. With past players like Marcus Rashford, Radamel Falcao and the Class of 92 all to have experienced the tournament. I, along with five other referees, were fortunate enough to be selected to represent The FA as part of an exchange programme looking at developing up and coming referees.
I left East Midlands Airport on Saturday 22 July after getting up at 4am to land in George Best City Airport. After I landed I was whisked off to the first friendly of the day, designed to give us a taster of what the football would be like. The venue for the 10:30 kick off was Greenisland
The friendly game the Super Cup organisers had asked us to officiate was Chivas D Guadalajara from Mexico and First Choice Soccer from America, Chivas won the game 1-0. After the game it was time to meet the other five English officials all from different parts of the country who I would be living and working with during the week.
Sunday was a chance to take in some local sites and get to know the rest of the officials better. Which started by going to the Giant’s Causeway, although before going I thought they ‘were just a bunch of rocks’ but they were more than that which I was pleasantly surprised! At night all the teams, organisers and officials all lead by Norther Ireland legend David Healy paraded the streets of Coleraine a small town within the north of the country and opened the tournament. The streets were lined by many locals all applauding us, it felt like we had just won a major trophy!
Monday was the official start to the tournament. All referees from Northern Ireland and England met in a Hotel which was the base of the tournament to eagerly await the first round of appointments. From speaking to other referees who have been before, the games varied from one appointment as referee to two games as assistant. For the first games of the competition, I was assigned to County Londonderry who were a local side against the familiar faces of Chivas D Guadalajara. The game ended 3-0 to Chivas in which the Mexican side outclassed the local team with an impressive attendance of 300.
Tuesday brought two games as an assistant referee both working with Northern Irish referees; it was great to work with referees from a different area to compare the different styles. Come Tuesday night the legs started to ache and the dreaded nightly ice baths began.
The next day I was back refereeing a game between Vendee (France) and Beijing Morning Star United (China). Both teams don’t speak a word of English, which was evenly match by me not having the ability to speak French or Mandarin! The game ended 1-0 to Vendee with a late winner and thankfully required me not to speak to either of the team members which could have been entertaining!
Thursday brought me back to two games as an assistant referee, but these games were different. This was semi-finals day. You could feel the tension in the players and crowds, with every chance in front of goal brought with gasps. The games went really smoothly although everyone in the group was now queuing up at the ice bath to make sure they are ready for the finals day the next day.
Friday was the conclusion of the tournament and the highly anticipated day full of finals. I was lucky enough to referee The Salver Cup final between County Londonderry (Northern Ireland) and Strikers (USA). I was very proud to have been given a final - all the hard work during the week had payed off to be rewarded with a final. The game ended 2-0 to Strikers which was followed by great scenes of jubilation by the well-supported American outfit.
On Saturday 29 July I was back up at 4am ready to fly back to England and say goodbye to the fellow English referees who were equally physically exhausted! The week was an unbelievable experience which one I won't forget and has helped me to progress as a referee and ready for the upcoming 2017/18 season.
Game 1: Madrid Fusia (Spain) v Fyllingsdalen (Norway) - 1 August
This was my first game of the tournament and was also my first time officiating two teams that do not speak English. It was a challenge, not just because of the language barrier but because of the two different styles of football. It was a great experience to work with two assistant referees who were also on the programme. All the assistant referees were from Denmark so it was new for all three of us to pick up each other’s refereeing styles.
This game was not very challenge as it was a one-sided match, however there were areas to improve on to make me a better referee throughout the week and for the new season back home in England. The biggest learning curve was to be more of an ‘international referee’ because this style of refereeing was suited to the tournament. We learned over the week to be more aggressive and to be the leader.
Game 2: Esbjerg FB (Denmark) v IFK Norrkoping (Sweden) - 3 August
After a day of recovery and days of watching clips to improve our international refereeing style I was keen to put what we had learned into practice. Esbjerg FB were the tournament hosts so there was pressure on them to perform, so I had to ensure that I was the leader on this game especially. In England, I would say that I was a calm referee however I could up my tempo when the game tempo increased. It was different to be at a high tempo from minute one in this game. The Danish Coaches gave us great tips on how to make sure that the players and spectators know that we are the leader. For example, on every free kick sprint to where the incident happened and tell the defending players to get back. With the style of football that was played in the tournament this suited, however in England it will not work every time. However, when the reckless challenges happen in our normal week-to-week games this is a great tool to use. So, it was good to get into habit of putting it into practice.
Game 3: S.L. Benfica (Portugal) v Madrid Fusia (Spain) - 4 August
This was my final game of the tournament and I wanted to leave on a high. On paper this was a testing game so it was great to put and show others everything that I had learned into practice. I had limited time to recovery and recharge so it was going to be testing physically and mentally. I can easily say this was the most challenging time of the week for me. The game was at a high tempo from minute one and it tested my refereeing skills. Post-match I was happy with my performance. There is always room to improve and after speaking to the coaches they gave me some great feedback to take forward into the 2017/18 season.
Relationship with others:
I knew the people I was travelling with to Denmark as we had already met at SGP; this really helped me feel comfortable when we all met up before setting off. I also already knew Rob from previous tournament and meetings. Over the week we all bonded really well and both learnt from each other’s experience during the tournament and experiences outside of the tournament. Rob was fantastic, giving us great advice and tips that would help us in England and throughout the tournament. Also, the Danish officials and coaches where brilliant, giving us such a warm welcome and for making us part of a great week. It was also great to hear their refereeing stories and the experiences they have been through, picking up a different culture.
Most Enjoyable Moment:
The most enjoyable moment was on Wednesday 2nd when the Danish referees kindly invited us to go for something to eat and to have more of an insight into Danish lifestyle. The trip out was also great as I was celebrating my 20th birthday. We went to a restaurant where we all had a great chat and a laugh. Again, I cannot thank them enough for this.
S.L. Benfica (Portugal) v Madrid Fusia (Spain)
It was also hard to change my refereeing style from English to International. Once I had watched and learned the continental style, with strengths that I already know from the English game, the games became easier and I was picking great tips to bring back home.
I am so grateful to have taken part in what I can say my greatest refereeing experience yet. A huge thank you to the Danish FA, Rob & Dan for taking their time to invest in all three of us and for sharing your refereeing knowledge. I have learnt a great amount on and off the field that I shall take into my games for the new season. Personally, for me it is a tough season ahead but I can honestly say this trip will help my refereeing skills and to help on what I hope is a successful season.
Steve Bratt, County FA Referee Development Officer, said: “It’s great to hear that both Jacob and Ruebyn had such rewarding experiences on their respective exchange programmes. These schemes highlight some of the excellent opportunities that are currently available to referees, and I’d like to wish both officials well in what I’m sure will be long and successful careers.”
To find out how you can begin refereeing with Leicestershire & Rutland County FA, please click here or contact Steve.Bratt@LeicestershireFA.com