What it takes to be a referee in the World Cup


They’ve trained all their careers to perform at the World Cup – building stamina, strength and agility, and developing the mental toughness to handle the pressures of the game.

It is not easy to be an outstanding referee in football.

While the attention of fans and spectators has focused on the athletic prowess of the players at the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, the football officials overseeing the event also need to display a world-class level of physical fitness.

Referees typically run six to eight miles during a 90-minute match, according to Werner Hilsen, UEFA sports scientist. Working as a referee requires sprinting, endurance, and the ability to change direction quicklyAnd the In addition to the emotional skills to deal with players’ moods and management pressures. They have to keep pace with some of the fastest athletes in the world for over 90 minutes, all while enforcing the rules of the game.

“There’s a lot of strong running that the referee will need,” said Mark Geiger, who in 2014 became the first referee from the United States to officiate a World Cup knockout match. “Keeping up with the international and professional players, it’s very demanding on the body, that’s why they train the way they do.”

Referee fitness test

World Cup referees must pass FIFA approved physical fitness tests that assess sprinting speed and aerobic fitness.

“Fitness is your passport,” said Rick Eddy, director of referee development for US Soccer. “If you don’t have a good fit, you won’t progress and you won’t pass the exam, and the exams have become increasingly difficult in the past few years.”

The FIFA Referees Committee has selected 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video match referees to serve in this year’s World Cup.

In Qatar World Cup matches, there are five officials on the pitch: one referee (sometimes known as the central referee) is responsible for officiating the match, two assistant referees in the opposite halves of the pitch, and a fourth and fifth referee between the tables performing administrative duties and assisting the referee. Video Assistant Referees (VARs) monitor match footage and evaluate off-field replays.

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To become a FIFA referee, Eddie said, one must work in their country’s Premier League for at least two years. To get into the World Cup, American referees must first be recommended to FIFA through a process that includes the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), which runs professional soccer referees in North America, as well as American soccer.

There is also a tough test of speed and agility that all judges must pass. According to FIFA and Geiger, they include:

  • Six 40-meter sprints with no more than 60 seconds of recovery between each repetition. Each enemy must be finished within six seconds for male judges and 6.4 seconds for female judges.
  • strenuous interval test, repeated 40 times without stopping, consisting of a 75-meter run (15 seconds or less for men; 17 seconds for women) followed by a brisk walk of 25 meters (18 seconds or less for men; 20 seconds) (women) – equivalent to 4000 metres, or 10 laps of a 400-meter track.
  • Test the change in direction known as the 7-7-7. Geiger, who retired from professional refereeing in 2019 and now works as the PRO’s director of chief match officials, said the test requires sprinting seven metres, then turning 90 degrees to the left and sprinting another seven metres, then turning 90 degrees to the right. And run another seven metres. He said the exercise must be performed twice, and the judges must do it in 4.9 seconds or faster each time.

“They’re trying to get the Test to mimic the demands that are on the referee in the match,” Geiger said. “In the game, they don’t run constantly. They run some and then take a little break. They might walk.”

The assistant referees have a slightly different test that includes sprints and sideline dribbles, to mimic what the referees do during the game along the sidelines.

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American professional soccer player Drew Skundrich, 27, was asked by The Washington Post to try out for tests in early November at the training ground of his former club, D.C. United. Afterward, Skundrich said the tests gave him a better appreciation of the referee’s job.

“It was definitely harder than I expected,” he said. “Referees have to move a lot, which makes sense because they have to keep up with the pace of play. Some games can move back and forth very quickly, and unlike defenders or forwards, who can kind of stay on one side of the pitch, referees have to cover everything, So it makes sense that they would run these fitness tests.”

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Referees need to train constantly to keep up with the demands of the game. For 34-year-old Joe Dickerson, who has been a full-time referee with the PRO since 2018 and works Major League Soccer games, that means year-round training.

“I think we have to be as fit as the players,” said Dickerson, who did not participate in the World Cup.

His training regime fluctuates throughout the year. During the MLS offseason, Dickerson focuses on light running and light lifting, before switching to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to prepare for the FIFA Referee Fitness Test. During the season, Dickerson does a lot of cross-training, including swimming, to recover when the game load is up.

Eddie, who worked as a referee in MLS prior to his stint with US Soccer, also advocates swimming, in addition to cycling, to build aerobic strength. The judges advise mixing it up when it comes to rehearsals.

“You want to get fit to referee matches. You don’t want to referee matches to get fit,” said Eddie. “It’s about balance. You know, one day it might be a sprint workout, the next day it might be a distance workout, and the next day it might be in the pool recovering.”

Mental game training

Understanding the team and the style of play can make the referee’s job smoother. Eddy said that all good referees keep a notebook of their players’ tendencies. Professional referees need to anticipate where the ball will be and position themselves accordingly.

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Dickerson said, “It’s not the distance. It’s the pace and the ability to be explosive and dynamic. Then the other hard part is reading the plays. We put a lot of work into watching movies and trying to understand what the teams are going to do so we can anticipate where we’re going before we’re there.”

To be within a yard or two of The best angle to watch the play can mean the difference between catching or missing a penalty call.

“There are all these things that we’re trying to balance,” Dickerson said. “We just want to make the right decisions, so we need to take that along with the physical challenges of being in the right place.”

World Cup in Qatar

Last: Portugal managed an easy 6-1 victory over Switzerland and will face Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday after the Atlas Lions stunned Spain on penalties earlier in the day.

USMNT: The US men’s national team fell to the Netherlands 3-1 on Saturday in the opening match of the Round of 16. The United States has not won a World Cup knockout match since 2002, when they beat regional rival Mexico in the round of 16. 16 in South Korea.

Knockout round schedule: The group stage of the World Cup, full of shocking surprises and dramatic turns, will now give way to the knockout round, which promises more surprises.

WorldView today: The 2022 World Cup has faced a series of controversy since Qatar won the right to host it more than a decade ago. Sometimes drowning in hype: Concern about the tournament’s impact on climate. Perhaps anticipating a backlash, Qatar made an ambitious pledge: to hold the world’s first carbon-neutral World Cup.


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