The FIFA Confederations Cup is considered to be a dress rehearsal for the host country in the year preceding the FIFA World Cup. But aside from the Local Organising Committee, there is another group which views the tournament as a very important test.
"All referees and assistant referees at the Confederations Cup are candidates for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. This tournament is part of their preparation and training as well as being a very important competition in its own right," Jose Maria Garcia-Aranda, the Director of FIFA's Department of Refereeing, told FIFA.com.
The entire group have set up base in Pretoria, where they undergo daily physical and tactical training. "We also monitor their health and fitness as part of an injury-prevention programme so that they’ll arrive at the World Cup in peak condition," adds Garcia-Aranda.
Two other important areas are also worked on in the preparation programme. One of these, known as 'energy', aims to improve body language and the manner in which referees interact with players on the pitch. The other area deals with mental preparation in which, "We try to instil referees with as much confidence as possible. We help them to concentrate, to focus on success and we prepare them for dealing with criticism and accepting their mistakes," explains Manuel Lopez, one of the psychology instructors.
"In addition, in competitions like this where they are away from home and outside their daily routine, there is a certain psychological strain, which we try to counteract by keeping morale high," he adds.
Preparation through technology
Next, Garcia-Aranda explains that the team of refereeing instructors have included three very interesting tools in their training routines.
The Virtual Training Tool is similar to an interactive simulation game in which randomly-selected moves or situations are displayed, to which the referee must react as he would in a real game.
The Instant Replay Feedback is used during practical training sessions on the pitch. A recording device stores the decisions made by the referee when faced with different matchday situations such as fouls or offsides, which are reproduced in the exercises. The referee can then immediately go to a pitch-side monitor to review his decisions in slow motion.
The final tool is integrated practical exercises, consisting of a training programme which works on all physical, technical, psychological and performance-related aspects simultaneously, rather than through unrelated individual exercises.
In addition, this year in collaboration with the National Institute for Physical Education in Madrid, a biometric analysis of the referees’ performance will be carried out. Pictures are taken during matches and then positions and distances are measured to determine the perfect position for taking certain decisions. In this way, referees have scientific knowledge which helps them find the optimal positions when officiating at a match.
Referees’ preparations do not end once the tournament is over, as they all communicate through an intranet, where they can access a wealth of relevant information and contact both colleagues and instructors to clear up doubts or raise concerns. In this way, all referees can continue to fine-tune their skills in the run-up to South Africa 2010 by interacting continuously under expert supervision.