Monday, 15 May 2017

When coaches barge in to the referee's changing room

Games 49-50, 2016-17

I coach a boys U14 team and the other week I bollocked them for not shaking the referee's hand at the end of a narrow defeat, and for not congratulating their opponents. "I was ashamed to be your coach today," I lectured. "It's easy to be a good sport when you've won. Not so easy when you've lost."

The next game they lost 1-0, and they were just as pissed off as they'd been the previous week, but most of them remembered to behave about it in a half-way sporting manner.

Lost the game? Bite your
lip and shake it anyway.
Generally, a youth team's attitude is a reflection of the way they're coached. On Sunday I was warned by my refereeing colleagues about the "particularly difficult" home team coach ahead of a boys' U17 game. Well, it couldn't be any worse than anything else I've seen this season.

Let's first rewind quickly to the night before: game 49, boys U19, featuring a visit to the same club whose U17 coach freaked out at me last weekend. This gentleman's team was just finishing their game as I arrived, and he decided to invite himself into my changing room to talk about last Saturday's red card against one of his players for fighting.

"What a nice surprise to see you," was his snarky opening line, and that wasn't a good start, especially as he didn't even have the courtesy to knock. "My player's been banned for three
games because of you. I still want to know why you sent him off." I told him to read the official game report (which he will certainly have done already), and to please leave my changing room. He wanted to keep talking, because he still couldn't understand the decision I'd made, which he'd seen from a different position 50 yards away. I told him I was about to referee a game, that this wasn't the time for a chat, and could he now PLEASE KINDLY LEAVE MY CHANGING ROOM.

He hung around the ground for a while to see if I was just as shite a ref as I'd clearly been the week before, and must have been disappointed when his club were gifted (not by me, but clumsy opposition defenders) two penalties in the first 13 minutes. Then he perhaps had something better to do with his Saturday night and pissed off.

So, to Sunday's U17 game and the "difficult" coach. It wasn't just the coach who was difficult, it was his players too. They moaned a lot and fouled a lot. Their opponents fouled a lot too, but were mainly disciplined and kept their mouths shut. Their coach seemed like a decent bloke. When he enthusiastically praised one of his players on almost scoring from 40 yards out, the player said, "It was meant to be a cross." The coach replied, "I know, but it looked good anyway."

A poorly coached U17
football player, yesterday.
That was a rare light moment as the home side became increasingly fractious and frustrated at their inability to come back from 1-3 down. There were two yellows for dissent, and lots of little off-the-ball shoving matches. I talked to two players expressly about this. Later I talked to both captains about toning down the fouls. I might as well have been quoting Heidegger in Chinese for all the attention they paid. It almost inevitably culminated in a grand pushing, shoving and shouting jamboree two minutes before the end, and one player from each team was shown the red card for violent conduct. It should have been at least two more.

After the game, I had the pleasure of another unsolicited visit from the coaches to my changing room. They'd both agreed we should just forget about the red cards and have them cancel each other out as it's so close to the end of the season. Didn't I think that was a good idea?

Sure. I too would love to avoid spending an hour and a half of my Sunday afternoon writing up a detailed disciplinary report in a foreign language. Very good idea. And then next week and next season your players can continue acting like irascible wankers because no one's told them what sporting behaviour means.

So, no chance. Cheerio and enjoy the rest of your Sunday. The away coach did say at the final whistle I'd had an excellent game, but then he'd won, and he was maybe already hatching his plan to talk me into annulling his player's red card.

Unsurprisingly, neither the home coach nor his players shook my hand. When you lose, sulk and blame the ref and learn nothing new. Good luck with that policy.

Game 49, final score: 7-2 (4 x yellow)
Game 50, final score: 1-3 (7 x yellow, 1 x time penalty, 2 x red)


  1. Ian, I'm surprised there is a discipline problem in Germany....I guess it's the same everywhere if you're a ref - everyone hates you. I don't condone that by the way.

  2. Glad to hear it! You have to develop a thick skin and learn not to take it personally. But I'd be lying if I said I never come home and think of jacking it all in.