Being a referee: Q&A with Sean Abasszade
I recently helped out by being a linesman at a local football match. It was a game featuring two under 13 division two sides, with no prize on the line. Having a parent or a community member serve as one of the linesman is common practice, just to help out the referee there is something that they don’t see.
I was abused, heckled and immediately felt bad for the referee, who copped it even worse.
Is this what it’s like on a weekly basis? Did I just have a bad experience? What’s it actually like being the official on the pitch?
To find out I spoke to Sean Abasszade, 20, who has been referring football for seven years.
Why did you decide to become a referee?
I love football and I needed some pocket money. It seemed like the right job to do.
Do you also play at the same?
I did. I played for Knox City Football Club in the Super League then for Glen Waverly Soccer Club, both teams as a CDM (central defensive midfielder). I stopped playing this year. I also stopped referring this year, to focus on my studies.
Did playing at the same as referring change your opinion on referees?
From game one. The first time I refereed I realised just how much stress these guys are under. I changed my behaviour towards the referees right away. I realised that there is no point arguing with the referee, as they never change their calls. Also, there is so much happening off the pitch, they don’t need to cop it on the pitch as well.
What kind of things happen off the pitch?
Parents and coaches take this stuff very seriously. In some cases, especially when I was reffing the older guys, there was a lot of money invested and it was a higher level. Coaches were under stress and the parents would try and put me under a lot of pressure to get decisions. Sometimes they even come to the referee’s room before the game and try and offer me things like food and get me onside. I never took the offer, and it doesn’t really matter anyways, as anytime I make a call the side that it’s against is going to be unhappy with it. I could kind of understand it at the top level, it was at the junior level that it really bothered me.
What would happen at the junior level?
The behaviour of the kids on the pitch comes from their coaches and parents. If a 12 year old was getting angry and talking back and carrying on, they were mimicking what they say with their parents and the coach. Some of the kids would get violent and swear, and when I gave them a yellow card, the coach and parents would come on the field and yell at me. It happened a lot when I was younger because they didn’t think I knew what I was doing.
How did you respond?
I just back myself and my decisions. If they continue you give them a red card and send the player off, or the coach away from the pitch. They are punished with fines and a one or two match ban. That’s all you really can do. You have to just suck it up and move on.
Would you recommend the job to anyone?
It’s not a great job, but the clubs do need referees otherwise no one would get to play. It can be great fun on some occasions, but the aggressive and competitive culture needs to change, especially when there is nothing on the line.
What advice do you have to anyone starting out?
There are going to be times where you make good calls and times where you make bad ones. The best thing to do is back yourself and work on improving with every game, but don’t let anyone intimidate you into making a decision that you don’t want to make.