Massimo Busacca, the Head of the FIFA Refereeing Department, took part in the CONMEBOL Elite Referees Course held between 28 January and 1 February in Paraguay, which was attended by over 34 officials spanning every member association from the South American Zone.
The course covered a variety of issues that are vital in the training and development of top-level referees, with respected FIFA instructors and members of the Referees’ Committee – in addition to professionals from the fields of kinesiology and nutrition – charged with getting the all-important information across. All of which had one main objective in mind: the long road towards the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Drawing on his 22 years of refereeing experience, Busacca too played an active part in the course programme. As well as stressing the qualities, values and habits that referees must exhibit both on and off the field of play, the Swiss highlighted the importance of preparing physically, technically and tactically for matches.
What is more, Busacca also made a point of the need to approach games with bravery and a positive attitude, being confident in yourself and your decisions and using emotional intelligence when taking said decisions – without being swayed by the crowd. All of which requires the ability to be able to understand the game, analyse it and make advance preparations in terms of the potential tactics in use.
Getting communication right with players and coaches (an area where speaking several languages well is an undoubted bonus) was another factor that Busacca wished to draw attention to, as well as the need to understand where those individuals are coming from, to keep your cool and earn their respect via the firm and correct use of authority.
Last but by no means least, the Swiss underlined what he feels is the most important aspect of any referee’s demeanour: humility. Though officials should stay true to themselves, they must always be consistent, open to learning from their instructors and be constructively self-critical. Indeed, recognising mistakes is not enough: referees must also learn from them.
Cutting out errors
Over the course of the get-together, participants were also given instruction on specific ways to reduce the number of refereeing errors, including the use of stress management and optimum physical and mental preparation. With this in mind, a variety of working tools were put at the refs’ disposal, such as accurate tactical methodologies and training programmes to help improve performance. Another recommendation was taking the time to watch and examine matches on television.
The referees in attendance were aware that their performances over the coming months will prove decisive in terms of the selection process for those officials vying to take part at Brazil 2014. This point was explained in detail on the course, with the highly demanding selection process set to take into account factors including optimum levels of health and fitness, fluent English, a high standard of performance in technical and physical terms and the correct application and interpretation of the Laws of the Game.
"Both the tests themselves and the assessment process are demanding, because the standard of the modern game requires them to be,” said Busacca. “Our job is to supply the right toolkit in technical, physical and structural terms to ensure referees, as well as their football associations, have professional habits in the way they approach their diet, physical conditioning, training, personal development and in-depth knowledge of the Rules of the Game.”
By way of a conclusion, Busacca urged the referees present to live and breathe the game and to throw themselves into the demands of being professionally prepared, thus doing full justice to the honour that is officiating a top-level football match.