A group of up-and-coming young referees and assistant referees have been urged to reach for the top at a UEFA course – and are being given every help by European football's governing body to achieve that ambition.
The match officials were at UEFA headquarters in Nyon for the latest annual talents and mentors course, in which promising young referees are taken under the charge of former international referees. Practical sessions, discussions and a fitness test were among the items on the agenda.
The referees and assistants – the talents – are fostered by experienced mentors, who themselves are seasoned former international referees. The mentors remain in constant contact with their junior counterparts by email or phone, and by either visiting them or inviting them to their respective countries. Their conversations focus on on-field performances as well as other matters such as diet and general conduct.
UEFA took great pains to emphasise the opportunity that the young referees are being given to stride forward in their careers. "Use this chance, use it well," UEFA vice-president and UEFA Referees Committee chairman Ángel María Villar Llona stressed to participants. "Many of the referees who have refereed club and national-team finals have followed this same programme." He also thanked the mentors for the dedicated work they are undertaking to uphold the quality of refereeing in Europe for the future.
"Remember that Howard Webb sat where you are now," Referees Committee member David Elleray said of the English match official who last year was assigned both the FIFA World Cup final and the UEFA Champions League final, having previously participated in the talents and mentors scheme.
The referees were advised to show courage in decision-making and on-field management, with efficient cooperation between referee and assistants, discipline and concentration among the other key aspects of their job – as well as the right attitude. "Are you willing to make sacrifices?" asked Elleray. "Are you prepared to take the good with the bad? Are you open to criticism? Are you prepared to work hard and learn? If you are, UEFA will support you."
UEFA passed on a wealth of invaluable advice to the officials about the need for a positive outlook, calmness in taking decisions, meticulous preparation and attention to detail, maintaining high confidence, staying fit and healthy, and having the requisite belief in their ability to make a success of their refereeing careers. "It takes talent to referee talent," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh.
Just as the best players are mentally tough, referees must also have a winning mentality. "Things will go wrong, but are you able to come back?" said Roxburgh. "You have the potential – can you fulfil that promise and be the winner you would like to be? Football can often be like a bullring with a hostile environment. Have you got the courage to be in that bullring, and the ability to make the top decisions?"
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