What it takes to be a referee in the World Cup


Their entire careers have been trained to perform at the World Cup – developing stamina, strength and agility, and developing the mental toughness to deal with the pressures of the game.

Becoming a good football referee is not easy.

While the focus of fans and spectators has been on the athleticism of the players at the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, football officials overseeing the event will also need to display world-class fitness levels.

According to Werner Helsen, a sports scientist for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), referees typically travel six to eight miles during a 90-minute match.Refereeing requires sprint, stamina and the ability to change direction quickly, And emotional skills for dealing with player tempers and referee stress. They must keep pace with some of the fastest athletes in the world for over 90 minutes while enforcing the rules of the game.

“Refereeing involves a lot of high-intensity running,” said Mark Geiger, who in 2014 became the first U.S. referee to officiate a World Cup knockout match. “It’s very physically demanding to keep up with the international and professional players and that’s why they train the way they do.”

Referee’s fitness test

World Cup referees must pass a fitness test approved by FIFA, which assesses sprint speed and aerobic fitness.

“Fitness is your passport,” says Rick Eddy, director of referee development for the U.S. Soccer Association. “If you’re not in good shape, you’re not going to advance, you’re not going to pass the exam, and it’s been getting harder over the years.”

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

At World Cup matches in Qatar, there are five officials on the pitch: a referee (sometimes Officials are between performing administrative duties and assisting the referee’s bench. A Video Assistant Referee (VAR) monitors game footage and evaluates off-field replays.

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Eddie said that to become a FIFA referee, a person must have worked in their country’s top league for at least two years. To qualify for the World Cup, U.S. referees must first be recommended to FIFA through a process that includes the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), which governs professional soccer refereeing in North America, and the U.S. Soccer Association.

All judges must pass a challenging speed and agility test. According to FIFA and Geiger, it includes:

  • Six 40-meter sprints with no more than 60 seconds of recovery between repetitions. Male referees must complete each sprint within 6 seconds, and female referees must complete each sprint within 6.4 seconds.
  • A strenuous interval test of 40 non-stop repetitions consisting of a 75-meter run (15 seconds or less for men; 17 seconds or less for women) followed by a brisk 25-meter walk (18 seconds or less for men; 20 seconds or less for women seconds) women) – equivalent to 4,000 meters, or 10 laps of a 400-meter course.
  • A change of direction test called 7-7-7. The test calls for a seven-meter sprint, then a 90-degree left turn, another seven-meter sprint, and a 90-degree right turn, said Geiger, who retired from professional refereeing in 2019 and is now director of PRO senior match officials. Another sprint of seven meters. The drill had to be done twice, and the referee had to do it in 4.9 seconds or faster each time, he said.

“They’re trying to make the test simulate the demands of refereeing in a game,” Geiger said. “In the game, they’re not running all the time. They’re running a little bit, and then they take a break. They might be walking.”

Assistant referees have a slightly different test that involves sprinting and side shuffling to mimic what referees do on the sidelines during games.

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The Washington Post asked 27-year-old American professional football player Drew Skundrich to try out the test at the training ground of his former club DC United in early November. Afterwards, Skundridge said the tests gave him a better understanding of what a referee does.

“It’s definitely been tougher than I expected,” he said. “Referees have to move a lot, which makes sense because they have to keep up with the pace of the game. Some plays can go back and forth very quickly, and unlike defenders or attackers, they can stay on one side of the field and the referee has to cover the entire field. , so it makes sense that they have to do these fitness tests.”

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

“I think we have to be as fit as the players,” said Dixon, who has not officiated at the World Cup.

His training regime fluctuates throughout the year. During the MLS offseason, Dixon focused on light jogging and light weightlifting before turning to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in preparation for the FIFA referee fitness test. During the season, Dixon did a lot of cross-training, including swimming, to recover when the game load was high.

Eddie, who was an umpire in Major League Soccer before his work on the U.S. soccer team, also advocates swimming, in addition to biking, to build aerobic strength. He suggested referees mix it up in practice.

“You want to be fit to officiate. You don’t want to officiate for fitness,” Eddy said. “It’s about balance. You know, one day it might be sprint training, the next day it might be long distance training, the next day it might be recovery in the pool.”

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mental game training

Knowing how a team and players play can make a referee’s job much smoother. Eddy says all good referees keep track of player tendencies. Professional umpires need to predict where the ball will be and position themselves accordingly.

Dixon said: “It’s not the distance. It’s the speed, just being able to have explosiveness and energy. Predict where you will arrive before you arrive.”

a yard or two off the ground The best angles to watch a game can mean the difference between catching a ball or missing a penalty.

“We’re trying to balance all those things,” Dixon said. “We just want to make the right decisions, so we need to be physically challenged in the right place.”

Qatar World Cup

Newest: Portugal comfortably beat Switzerland 6-1 and will face Morocco in Saturday’s quarter-finals after the Atlas Lions beat Spain on penalties earlier on Tuesday.

United States Marine Corps: The U.S. men’s national team lost 3-1 to the Netherlands in their opening game of the round of 16 on Saturday. The U.S. has not won a World Cup knockout match since 2002, when they beat regional rivals Mexico. 16 in South Korea.

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

Today’s world view: The 2022 World Cup has faced a barrage of controversies since Qatar won the bid more than a decade ago. Sometimes drowned in the noise: Concerns over the climate impact of the tournament. Qatar, probably anticipating pushback, has made an ambitious pledge to host the first ever carbon-neutral World Cup.


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