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Regions' Cup referees run UEFA.com ragged

UEFA.com joined UEFA Regions' Cup match officials for a recovery session in Fao and learned that one of the crucial elements of a referee's training is not to be tempted to kick the ball.

UEFA.com's Wayne Harrison (in grey) tests his fitness against the referees in Fao
UEFA.com's Wayne Harrison (in grey) tests his fitness against the referees in Fao ©Sportsfile

The day after the second set of UEFA Regions' Cup group fixtures, UEFA.com discovered how referees recovered from the rigours of officiating at Europe's flagship amateur tournament.

In the mid-morning heat at the Estádio de Fão, João Dias – a fitness instructor from the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) – led the officials through a gentle warm-up involving jogging and stretching before progressing to a series of small-sided games, while UEFA.com did its best to tag along.

While the objective was to aid recovery from Thursday's matches, the emphasis throughout the hour-long session was on fostering teamwork and understanding among the officials from 15 of UEFA's national associations. It was fun but strenuous, and left UEFA.com in no doubt that this new batch of European officials are exceptionally fit and supple.

João Dias kept a sharp eye on his officials throughout, cheerfully admonishing them with the words "you are not footballers" every time they kicked a ball. Said with a light heart but with deadly serious intent; the aim, to urge the young talents to keep their heads up at all times, mirroring the vigilance they must show if they are to feature at the game's top levels.

There was still the opportunity to compete, in an odd hybrid of handball and heading skills, where the referees were divided up into two competing teams. Fun, but with a serious purpose.

"The games aim to develop team building between the referees because they come from different countries," João Dias told UEFA.com. "It's important to have these games in order to increase interaction between them."

With the officials fully warmed down, focus quickly turned to Saturday and the final match-specific session before the concluding round of group games the following day.

"That involves replicating the typical movements the officials make during the match," João Dias said. "The referees, for example, do a lot of diagonals and their assistants will do sideways movements with the flags."

Having seen how hard they work when they are just recovering, UEFA.com has decided not be involved in that session.