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From the desk of Mario Renteria

January 28, 2001

I have been a soccer fanatic all my life. For me there's nothing more exciting than hearing "goaaaaal."

I played goalkeeper for the varsity squad at Southwest High School for the first three years of the new school's existence. I am now the head coach for the boys J.V. soccer team at Central Union High School. People who know me think this is crazy since I am a Southwest Eagle at heart.

As a player and a coach, there is one thing I don't understand.

Why are games now being refereed by a two-man system?

The tradition is to have one center referee and two linesmen, now called assistant referees.

Having two referees means two different opinions and that sometimes leads to controversy. For example, I covered the boys varsity soccer match between Calexico and Brawley high schools in Brawley recently that got ugly because of calls in a dual-refereed game.


The game started well but as it progressed, problems arose that I think the referees could have contained.

In the first half a Calexico forward shot at the goal and the ball hit the hand of a Brawley defender inside the penalty box.

The closest referee let the play continue. In my opinion that was the right call because the player never had the intention of blocking the shot with his hand. As the ball was launched the Brawley defender actually was twisting his body away from the shot.

In the second half a similar scenario occurred, only this time it was a Calexico defender hit on the hand with the ball. Actually, there was two similar plays in the second half, both hitting a Calexico player.

What troubled me about the first call against Calexico was it was the referee farthest from the play who called it, not the closest one.

The referee closest to the play signaled to let play continue by raising his arm before the other referee called the violation.

The hand-ball was inside the penalty box so Brawley was awarded a penalty kick, which I don't think was justifiable. Brawley took the penalty kick and tied the game.

Then the second hand-ball call inside the box was whistled just three minutes later by the same referee.

The second call appeared correct. The Calexico player jumped up and raised his arms, apparently with the intention of blocking the ball with his hand. Brawley, again, took the penalty kick but this time missed.

The Calexico coach, of course, started arguing strongly with the referee who made the calls.

The two exchanged words through the rest of the half, including the overtime periods.

Then a scuffle broke out when a Brawley player slide-tackled a Calexico player just seconds before the referee blew the final whistle.

The Calexico player retaliated by giving the Brawley player a light kick. The players exchanged words while players from two benches started to run on the field.

The two coaches quickly extinguished the situation but what I don't understand is why the referee didn't sanction either of the two players. The referees were only feet from the incident and didn't do anything.

I was in the stands and I saw the whole incident clearly. The two players should have gotten a warning at least.

I have seen these types of situations all too often, where a two-ref system causes friction.

It's obvious two people differ in opinions. It's only common sense that two referees would differ in calling fouls.

Some referees allow more contact while others are stricter. So why would high schools allow two people with different criterias and sets of judgment to officiate a game? In every other sport there is always that one referee who has the ultimate call.

Why not in soccer? Why not go back to the traditional three man-system?

I have seen some games reel out of control because teams get frustrated at the inconsistency of the referees.

Yes, I do blame referees when a game goes out of control. They are the ultimate say in the match and it is their duty to control the players, coaches and benches.

A referee should have a presence of control. He must not allow players or even coaches to talk back. I also think players whine a lot, which referees should try to control.

A referee must show he's the boss and when you have two different mindsets calling different fouls, that isn't the case. It brings a sense of confusion, and the players pick up on it, causing all hell to break loose.

As a coach and former high school soccer play, the one thing I hate is when a referee could easily prevent situations like the one I talked about and doesn't.

We have to all remember a referee's presence is not to influence the game but to officiate it consistently. Consistency can always be better maintained with one person.

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