Potential referees for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ are meeting for the first time in Zurich this week, with 52 people hailing from 46 different countries taking part in an initial referee workshop being held from 24-28 September. Having undergone medical tests over the past few days, the 52 candidates were officially welcomed by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on Monday morning.
"I would like to congratulate you for being selected for this trip to the World Cup at Brazil 2014," said Blatter. "The preparations ahead of the tournament are incredibly important. You will form my team, which will be the 33rd team at the World Cup and one of the most important."
Blatter gave an insight into the latest changes concerning referees, including the decision to introduce goal-line technology, which will be implemented for the first time in December at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012.
The FIFA President thanked the various referees for their work thus far for football and wished them all the very best on the road to Brazil 2014: "You dedicate a significant part of your lives to football, a game of self-discipline and respect and one that represents a battle where fair play must reign. And you are the ones who oversee these games".
It is like a national team, and we're the FIFA national team. We want to have the best referees available at the 2014 World Cup.
The referees will be treated to a varied programme designed to prepare them for their upcoming tasks and in particular for their work at the world's foremost footballing tournament, the FIFA World Cup.
On Monday, the focus was on fitness and medical information as well as theory and match analysis. Head of the FIFA Refereeing Department, Massimo Busacca, gave the candidates an insight into the subjects of physical fitness, diet and the avoidance of injuries. In the afternoon, scenes from matches were discussed and debated using video analysis. On Tuesday, after a fitness test, the referees went on to the pitch at FIFA's headquarters for the first practical units of the programme.
In his opening speech, Busacca called upon his wealth of experience as a former world-class referee and gave an overview of the forthcoming tests and the content of the seminar, as well as plans for the coming months as far as Brazil 2014 is concerned. "It is important to underline that this is an open list," he explained. "It is like a national team, and we're the FIFA national team. Those referees who are not here today need to know that they can still make it, while others can always drop out of the group. We want to have the best referees available at the 2014 World Cup ."
The 43-year-old underlined what an honour it is to take part in a FIFA World Cup. "Seize the opportunity – they don't tend to come along very often in a referee's career. In fact, this morning I was wondering whether I ought to make a comeback for 2014," he said with a wry smile.
This week will see the referees become attuned to the specificities of FIFA tournaments, since FIFA World Cups see teams from different countries and different cultures pitted against one another, unlike what happens in the domestic game. This will be a new sensation for those in the elite group looking to make their FIFA World Cup debuts, but an experienced team of instructors will be looking after the referees both this week and throughout the next two years on the road to Brazil.
Once this seminar is over, the next few months will focus on communication and observation. All 52 referees will officiate at FIFA tournaments in 2013 and be monitored by the FIFA Referee Team in their national confederations. A second seminar will then be held at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, before a final one the following year.