A Lady in the Soccer Suit Story
My goal is to sprinkle in a few stories here in my blog as I stitch together more stories for a book from a female soccer referee's perspective.
A red card was issued!
Actually, the offense(s) were two yellow cards (cautions) which equal a red card (send-off). I can tolerate a lot while on the pitch. It is not in my nature to issue red cards unless I get boxed into it with a player that may do one of these: serious foul play, violent conduct, spitting at a player, or official, denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures, or receives a second caution (yellow card) in the same match. It can be a battle out there!
Holiday soccer tournaments are ubiquitous nationwide, and Maryland is no different. Many games are played on Friday afternoons/evenings to kick off the tournament. I had the pleasure of refereeing (3) games on Friday of a Labor Day Tournament.
My center on the Friday set of games was a U17 Boys Academy game (a higher level of play with most players recruited to play college). The play was supposed to be fast and furious, and it was, but I felt it also was quite sloppy. Sloppiness creates chaos on both teams, running and gunning for the ball, and play gets rough. Issuing cautions and send-offs (if warranted) are two ways to manage a gripping game.
A tall, lanky kid with curly brown hair was in the mix of rough play several times in the match. He was unhappy that I was letting play continue without calling a foul on the opposing team and got louder and louder with his dissent. My assessment was that the "fouling" was going both ways. By the time two minutes elapsed into the second half, I cautioned him because of his obnoxious dissent. I had to set an example that I would no longer tolerate this trash talk for him, his teammates, or the opposing team. It was tournament play with only 35-minute halves (for this age group) instead of the regular 40-45 minute play they are used to.
About 20 minutes later, this same kid on the field with the only card issued recklessly fouled an opponent on a breakaway play - cleats up into the back of the legs (a big NO-NO). I was within 10 yards of the foul; it was an easy yellow card to issue. Both players went down in a heap. I already had the card extracted from my pocket once the two players involved got up, injury free, thankfully. And then I realized it was the tall, lanky kid that already had a card as I raised my yellow card toward him. The retaliatory play could have gotten out of hand had I not issued this kid his second caution because of the hard reckless tackle foul.
Two yellow cards equal a red. I had to send him off the field. His team played a man down for the rest of the match (10 players).
After the game, the tall, lanky young man with the send-off respectfully approached me. He tried to explain that he tripped over his feet when he took down the opposing player. I begged to differ. His red card would stick for the rest of the tournament, and he probably couldn't play the next game (at least).
Several minutes later, while my referee team was leaving the field, the coach of the red-carded player approached me. He was respectful (I was a bit wary) as he agreed with my decision to issue his player both cards during the match (he was not as nice during the game when it all went down, by the way). The coach's eyes softened as he said they all need to play and learn from their mistakes, plus there are ramifications to not playing within the Laws of the Game. I nodded in agreement.
I thought we were done with the conversation, but then he asked me a pivotal question on whether or not I realized it was the same player when I was about to raise that second yellow. I answered, "not until I saw his light brown curly hair emerge from the rubble did I realize it was the same player." He laughed and said he figured that was the case. Walking toward his players, he wished the referee team and me a good night.
Two things impressed me that night. Firstly, the tall, lanky kid tried to plead his case to me - all in a respectful, polite tone. And secondly, I was impressed by how kind this coach was toward me as he complimented my game, along with not being worried in the slightest about the following games that weekend without his carded player sitting out for a game or two.
That coach, the tall, lanky kid with the light brown curly hair, and his teammates would have to live with the decisions left on the field. That is the beautiful game!