Spain's Ciudad del Fútbol complex in Las Rozas (Madrid) was the setting last week for a refereeing instructors course that formed part of the FIFA FUTURO III program. The aim of the course that ran from 7-9 September was to provide instructors with the necessary tools and training to enable them to impart similar courses to referees/assistant referees at local level under the auspices of their national associations.

The course was run by José María García-Aranda, the head of FIFA's Refereeing Department and fellow member Fernando Tresaco Gracia. Chairman of the Referees' Committee of the Spanish Football Association Victoriano Sanchez Arminio also assisted in the early phases. Not only were participants provided with refereeing instruction materials specifically designed by FIFA, they also engaged in an in-depth study of issues related to the Laws of the Game. Particular attention was paid to the analysis of those Laws that are most open to the referee's interpretation, for the purpose of standardising the decision-making criteria.

One of the novelties of the course was the inclusion of practical training during which the instructors and participants simulated real-match situations on the playing fields to test the theory that had been taught previously in the classroom. As well as the customary exercises on refereeing techniques and the interpretation of rules relating to fouls and offsides, the course also focused on communication between referees and assistants. The ability to interact with fellow officials and act as a unit is viewed as being every bit as important as each referee putting in a sound performance.

The course, organised by FIFA's Development Division, also examined how a referee's attentiveness and reflexes are affected during the course of a game. "Physical preparation is no longer an issue as all the referees look after themselves meticulously nowadays. It goes without saying that the officials all know the Laws of the Game too, so what is more important is that they know how to apply those Laws on the pitch," remarked former referee's assistant Tresaco Gracia.

The original goal for the course was to "teach tomorrow's teachers". The current batch of participating officials will have to instruct the referees and assistants that will be charged with developing FIFA's FUTURO III courses. This main focus of this ambitious FIFA program is the education of personnel, selected from associations all around the world, in the areas of training, refereeing, administration and management of sporting bodies, and sports medicine. The program's ultimate aim is to provide qualified instructors who will be able to impart similar courses within their own football federations.

Upcoming FUTURO III courses will use a regional format, assembling instructors selected by the member associations from neighbouring countries in a centralised venue. A maximum of three instructors per member association may participate in each course, depending on the qualifications of the applicants and size of the country. As such, up to 10 countries can benefit from a single FUTURO III course.


Classroom work from the FUTURO III course.
The criteria for selecting referee instructors are numerous and varied. One prerequisite for consideration is substantial international experience as a FIFA official, as well as a stipulated level of physical fitness. The individual's proximity to retirement is also a factor, as it preferable to have instructors with more recent experience. The last, and also the most important requirement, is the need for excellent teaching and communicative skills, given the nature of the work that will be required of the successful instructors. 
The participants in last week's course in Madrid were as follows: Manuel López Fernández (Spain), Jorge Arango (Colombia), Esse Baharmast (USA), Mohd Nazri Bin Abdullah (Malaysia), Sonia Denoncourt (Canada), John Baker (England), Hussain Ghandanfari (Kuwait), Merere Gonzáles (Trinidad and Tobago), Sandra Hunt (USA), Neji Jouini (Tunisia) and Vitor Melo Pereira (Portugal).

The course was concluded with a closing dinner attended by President of RFEF and Chairman of FIFA's Referees and Assistant Referees Committee, Angel María Villar Llona.

Another eight FUTURO III refereeing courses are scheduled between now and December. At the conclusion of this phase of the program, there will be another meeting of instructors, the purpose of which will be to examine the results of the courses to date. This review will enable materials or instruction techniques to be modified, as necessary, and thus the quality of refereeing around the world to be further enhanced.

Upcoming course for 2004:

Zambia: 20-26.9.2004
Bangladesh: 24-30.9.2004
Ghana: 1-7.10.2004
Bahamas: 3-10.10.2004
Fiji: 1-7.11.2004
Cameroon: 2-8.11.2004
Mali: 22-28.11.2004
Argentina, 6-12.12.2004