At Friday 31 May’s conclusion of the FIFA Seminar for the referees shortlisted as candidates for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, a seminar which has taken place in Rio de Janeiro, there was a meeting between two generations of top-class officials. On the one side was FIFA Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca, who officiated at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 while, on the other, was Arnaldo Cezar Coelho who, at Spain 1982, became the first South American to referee a FIFA World Cup Final.
The Brazilian, who also officiated at Argentina 1978, brought with him a very special memento: the ball used in the Final of Spain 1982 and which was signed by the players of finalists Italy and Germany. “It’s a great pleasure and an honour to have Arnaldo Cezar Coelho here with us as we bring our seminar to a close,” said Busacca.
“He’s shown that he’s still very passionate about football and refereeing, and that’s something we discussed with the referees here,” he continued. “The FIFA World Cup is an opportunity that needs to be taken full advantage of. On the pitch you must stay focused in order to do a great job. Later, when you’re back at your hotel, don’t miss the chance to savour the tournament, the atmosphere generated by the fans and the culture of the country you’re in."
Cezar Coelho, for his part, spoke about the differences between refereeing now and in his day. According to the former official, in addition to the level of physical preparation required, rule changes and technological developments have made a referee’s job much more gruelling.
“In my day a referee would run about six kilometres, whereas nowadays they’ll run over ten,” said Cezar Coelho. “Now there are several balls all around the outside of the pitch, whereas there used to only be one. Besides which, the rule changes regarding passing the ball back to goalkeepers and reducing the time keepers can hold the ball in their hands have both meant that the ball is now in play for longer. Football has become much more dynamic. Because of all that, a referee’s positioning out on the pitch is vital.”
Q&A with Cezar Coelho
Those referees taking part in the seminar also had the chance to ask the Brazilian questions. One of those was about the impact his refereeing the Final of Spain 1982 had on his career, with Cezar Coelho stating that it had placed a greater responsibility on his shoulders.
“When I got back to Brazil [after Spain 1982], I felt like someone who has just won the lottery but doesn’t know what to do with the money,” he said. “Refereeing the Final was the dream for every referee [at the competition], but only one can do so. My career continued for seven more years after that but, from then on, it was as if I wasn’t allowed to make a single mistake, not even getting a throw-in wrong.
“But I prepared really well ahead of that FIFA World Cup,” he continued. “That’s why, when I was chosen for the Final, I fully believed that I was there on merit and that I’d put in a great performance. I can only be grateful for getting that opportunity, for what football and this ball gave me,” he added, pointing to the Spain 1982 Final ball, on the table beside him.
On the other side of the table and facing an audience from which the referee for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final will come, Busacca underlined the importance of this week of training during the seminar in Rio. The Swiss also gave his view that the group of officials make up another of the teams taking part in the competition.
“We’re all on the same team, we’re like a national squad,” said the FIFA Head of Refereeing. “That’s why our main message was the search for consistency and uniformity. Football is quicker now and many goals come from counter-attacks, so referees need to be able to keep up with play, to be well-positioned and to make the right decisions.
“You have to be strong not just physically but mentally too,” he concluded. “This seminar was very important in helping us achieve that. We’ve had a great week in Rio de Janeiro, with perfect facilities and conditions for the referees to work in. All that’s left is to say thank you to everyone involved.”