Every year or two, we read with great interest about the arrival of a new referee in Major League Soccer, and it’s usually all about reaching the pinnacle of a career after a journey of 12+ years of dedication, determination and incredibly hard work. Mental anguish, battling burnout, overcoming the taunts of abusive parents (yes, the antics of spectators at a U10 game)… so many of our MLS referees were tried-and-tested first at the competitive youth level, and were then thrown into the deep fryer of ethnic amateur games for several years, where survival instincts advance the best and bravest to the next level.
And it certainly helps if the ball takes a favorable bounce or two along the way.
The predominant unwritten rule (or at least the prevailing trend) suggests that officiating talent must be “discovered” before age 25 and continuously refined over ten or so years, so that we can herald the arrival of the next Brian Hall, Kevin Stott or Mark Geiger before the referee turns 35.
Of course, there are notable exceptions to nearly every rule, and that’s a very good thing.
Making up for lost time, Robert Sibiga, all of 41 years young, has arrived on the scene in Major League Soccer, and deservedly so after dedicating the last seven years of his life to studying, growing and advancing with the World’s Game. To say he made up for lost time is an understatement, and if his first two MLS performances are a true indication of the man’s talent, we’re probably going to see a lot more of him.