And then there were… Nine? The 2014 FIFA Referee and Assistant Referee lists went viral last week, and true to past form, I again find myself scratching my head… which isn’t good, as my hairline continues to recede, and I am approaching the need of a really creative comb over. (I saw “American Hustle” a few weeks back, so there still might be hope…)
The FIFA Men’s Referee list of seven is maintained from 2013… and that’s not a bad thing. Sophomores Juan Guzman (16 MLS games as Referee in 2013) and Chris Penso (17) return unscathed. Ricardo Salazar remains our most tenured Referee, entering his tenth season on the panel, followed by Baldomero Toledo (creeping closer to retirement age) and Jair who joined in 2007. I’m not sure if either Allen Chapman (22 games) or Armando Villareal (also 22) were awaiting phone calls that didn’t come… but I have to think that both are being seriously considered for future panel appointments, as they should be.
Our Women’s Referee list is again comprised of three in 2014. We welcome and congratulate Ekaterina Koroleva who joins the list. I won’t suggest that she is replacing Kari Seitz who has retired – it will be a very long time before anyone ascends to the stature of global respect and admiration that Kari has earned. So let’s not set Katja up to fail (or fail to perform at the same level as Kari)… those will be some very large shoes to fill (I’d say at least a size 24). I will share my thoughts of Kari somewhere down the road… but I won’t be driving an Oldsmobile (sorry, Kari… it’s not going to happen).
And now for a look at the AR panels. On the women’s list, we return Marlene Duffy and Veronica Perez, and we proudly welcome newcomers Felishia Mariscal (perhaps the first of several Mariscals) and Armanda Ross. We are well represented on the women’s lists with these outstanding officials.
Quick time out (do they have those in Futsal?) in order to give a nod to Shane Butler: Congratulations (again), Mr. Futsal. You remain a true professional without a pro league… or a sport.
Moving on to the controversy du jour: Back in the day, a certain USSF Manager of Referee Instruction was heard to say – on numerous occasions – that we have the best Assistant Referees in the world. I happen to support that statement (Alfred first made it when my own AR career was at its peak… so there you go), and I suspect that we STILL have the best… it’s just that Zurich now believes that we only have NINE of the best. We congratulate and bid adieu to Kermit Quisenberry who has “termed out” due to advanced age (it’s a shame, because honesty, the man doesn’t look a day over 60… must be the Florida air), and we welcome North Texas’ Adam Garner to the list. I’ve had the pleasure several times and can attest to Adam’s professionalism, dedication and fitness… as a Fourth Official (more on me in future blog). But seriously, after I rode into the sunset (we’re talking pre-adidas MLS if you’re curious), I have watched Adam develop into an excellent AR, and I congratulate him for this well-deserved appointment… and no, I am NOT going to opine or re-visit my dear colleague’s blog of 10/8/2013 (IMO, what happened in Toronto stays in Toronto).
OK, so anything else to report? Well, there is that one curious little detail and the matter of NINE.
There’s a third scandal now breaking in the NY/NJ area… and in this writer’s slanted opinion, it ranks right up there with Governor Christie’s “Bridgegate” and A-Rod’s “PED-gate.”
Several sources in the USSF referee machine have confirmed that Anthony Vasoli, a panelist since 2008, was removed from inclusion in the 2014 FIFA AR List after FIFA issued an edict to reduce the number of FIFA AR’s worldwide. I assume such a message was faxed to CONCACAF in New York, where the fax was printed and re-faxed across town to PRO (I wonder if CONCACAF whited-out the date & time stamp at the top of the page?).
The problem is that it hit the PRO fax machine after US Soccer had submitted ten AR names for 2014.
Deservedly or not, it appears that Mr. Vasoli became the odd-man out. I was disappointed to learn that Mr. Vasoli has been removed in advance of terming out (again, that whole thing about canes, wheelchairs and walkers at age 45), but I was even more enraged to learn that we’ve been squeezed out a position on the panel.
If someone in a really high place (like the Swiss Alps) wanted Mr. Vasoli out, our Board of Directors could have erased and replaced… in about 90 seconds. There are certainly several worthy candidates… the PRO website currently lists 45 Assistant Referees (including women, our colleagues from Canada, and three AR’s whose headshots seem to closely resemble the PRO logo).
Per the PRO website, there are a lot of AR’s with 10+ games worked in 2013, but most have several syllables so I will avoid the risk of typos and refrain from listing them here. If I could turn back time, I’d put Paul Scott on the list in a heartbeat, but since he is of advanced age, that’s not an option (but at least he received just rewards with the 2013 MLS Final assignment).
Was Greg Barkey an option for 2014? I suppose not. Perhaps Gregoire Barque?
Anyway, after I calmed down, I jumped on FIFA.com to see how this “Zurich Purge” has impacted other federations throughout CONCACAF. Of the six teams in the hexagonal, other than USA and Mexico, none have more than six Referees or seven AR (only Jamaica has seven). But, while our friends to the south STILL owe us big time for their all expenses paid vacation to New Zealand, I wasn’t completely shocked… but I was miffed… to see that Mexico has 10 Referees (including three new appointees) and 10 (yes, 10, as in the full allotment) Assistant Referees (including two rookies) on the 2014 FIFA Panel.
What is the meaning of this madness? Is US Soccer being ostracized for defiantly standing up to mighty Qatar in the 2020 World Cup Sweepstakes? One can only hope that this is not the sign of things to come, because I will tell you, I never (repeat, NEVER) envisioned the day that we would not be represented by a full panel of ten Assistant Referees. Let’s just hope that Jair (or any of our other FIFA Referees) is not assigned to work with a lone AR… and a Club Linesman.