In continuation of our 30 good things initiative, last week I volunteered as an official for the Danone sponsored World Cup of Football for 12 year olds. Held at Surrey Sports Park with the finals at Wembley Stadium, 38 nations competed over 3 days of competition.
By far the most difficult task was gaining access to the accommodation, as the swipe card entry system was a little troublesome (although 400+ 12 year olds did not seem to have any issues). My reward was a 6ft bed (ideal for someone who was 6ft 4) and a chair.
Nevertheless, I awoke the next day to glorious sunshine and the monotonous chanting of the Bulgarian national team who were on their way to a hearty Danone yoghurt breakfast.
The briefing clearly outlined my role;
• Coordinate the hand out and collection of the training bibs and balls.
• Ensure that only one member of the coaching staff is standing (all others to remain seated) at any one time.
• Police the technical area.
• Assist the substitution system.
• Note the score and scorers.
• Uphold fair play.
• Encourage all teams not showing any bias towards one nation (I.e. England).
• Look as though you’re enjoying yourself.
It soon became apparent that I was a fourth official! Now to those of you in the know, the fourth official is the only person who is despised more by supporters, than the referee and linesmen. He patrols the side of the pitch using hand gesticulations to illustrate his instructions and often has a quiet word (which often falls on deaf ears) with each team where necessary. I copied this approach to a degree of success and went away, at the end of the day satisfied that I had officiated and subsequently volunteered to the best of my ability.
The tournament was eventually won by France who beat Brazil in the final. England got knocked out at the quarter-final stage, on penalties (unsurprisingly).