Match Director Workshop: A look behind the scenes

  • The FIFA Match Directors of this year's tournaments met for a workshop in Zurich

  • 21 participants from a wide range of confederations and nations had travelled to Zurich

  • A Match Director ensures that anything regarding match operations runs smoothly before, during and after a match

The rules of football probably don't need to be explained to anyone here. Two teams, two halves, a half-time break and a team of referees who run the game and make sure the rules are followed. FIFA tournaments are no different. However, few people know who pull the competition strings in the background and ensures that everything runs smoothly during a match. This important task falls to the FIFA Match Directors, who set the stage for the teams. "Basically, we are responsible for the things that happens behind the scenes. That requires a lot of work and starts with what happens in the stadium before match day. You are at the stadium to make sure that the infrastructure, the dressing rooms, the pitch, the goals, etc. are in place and ready for the matches," explains Amina Kassem, who is Head of Disciplinary Administration for the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 12: FIFA Match Director Workshop at HoF, the Home of FIFA on May 12, 2022 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

"On match days, there is a list of things to do. For example, starting the match on time is very important. Five to six hours before the kick-off of a match, we should be at the stadium to make sure everything is in place," she continues. "The marching in of the teams and getting the flags ready is something we have to rehearse before the game. How long does it take? When is the ceremony over? The teams should arrive at the stadium 90 minutes before. We then have to prepare a starting list that goes to the media, TV channels and many other stakeholders. You have to make sure that the teams go to warm-up at a certain time, which starts 50 minutes before the match and ends 20 minutes before, then they go back to their dressing rooms and you start preparing for the ceremony... It's so much that people don't know and don't see."

To maintain this high standard, 21 participants from a wide range of confederations and nations had travelled to Zurich for a three-day Match Director Workshop. At the Home of FIFA, information was provided on important changes in match operations, key tasks & focal points were discussed, among other things.

FIFA is doing a great job. They are making sure that experience is shared and that we are truly global.

"The workshop was very informative, especially after the many challenges we have faced over the past two years. It is good that we were finally able to meet physically and not over Zoom," reports Shengying Dai. "Knowing that big competitions are coming up and especially the updates to the competition organisation were important. Like structures and some of the procedures. There might be some new implementations that we will take to the later competitions. Our title has changed, we are no longer General Coordinator but Match Directors. The duties haven't changed that much, but there are some adjustments in the details."

The Chinese-born Dai was first selected as Media Officer for a FIFA tournament in 2010 (U-17 Women's World Cup Korea Republic) and will travel to India for the U-17 Women's World Cup - this year as match director.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 13: FIFA Match Director Workshop at HoF, the Home of FIFA on May 13, 2022 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

Katharina Dühmert, who has worked for the DFB for 18 years, has a similar opinion to Dai. "It was really great and gave us all a lot - especially a lot of strength for the upcoming tournaments. We are all spread around the world. It's just great when you come together from all corners of the world. Everyone is basically working on the same thing. We understand each other, everything is similar, we can exchange experiences and help each other. Not only in the workshop but also during the tournament or the way there."

With the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup on the horizon, the aim now is also to build on the knowledge gained during the junior tournaments. The aim is to use the women who are present and performing well in 2022 for other tournaments as well. This is in line with the FIFA President's vision of a more open and inclusive football. FIFA is investing heavily in women's football and working to create sustainable competitive structures to further professionalise the sport.

"Diversity is always important - not only in football. Women's football is on the rise, the level of football in France 2019 was amazing. Now that we see that we are making great strides in the game itself, why shouldn't we get involved as organisers? We should, and that's exactly what FIFA is doing," concludes Kassem, who hails from Egypt.

This has been a truly global workshop.