THERE SHOULD be incentives for the budding crop of football referees, so they can remain motivated in their pursuits.
Top TT referee Crystal Sobers made this point during an interview, on Wednesday, at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Sobers was among a group of four TT officials who received badges, after their selection to the 2019 FIFA panel. The others are Caleb Wales, Ainsley Rochard and Joseph Bertrand (all assistant referees).
Cecile Hinds and Evelyn Douglas-Jacob, who were also named on the panel, were absent from Wednesday’s event.
According to Sobers, “I’m still expecting, or I appeal for more referees, both male and female, because when we (retire) who’s going to pick up our stuff? You always want that development.”
On Wednesday, retired FIFA referee and vice-president of the TT Football Referees Association Osmond Downer, chairman of the TT Football Association (TTFA) referees committee Joseph Taylor and president of the TT Super League Keith Look Loy all called on the TTFA to do more to assist the current group, as well as the next bunch of TT officials.
Sobers said, “You don’t want to invite people to something that you see is not fulfilling or there is no worth towards it. I was happy that each one of the speakers mentioned that there must have something for the referees. You must be working towards something before becoming a FIFA referee.
“You have three classes – C, B (and) A before you can become a FIFA referee. It must have something to keep you motivated.”
A week ago, she was named as the second-best CONCACAF woman referee for 2018, behind Lucila Venegas of Mexico.
Asked how she felt upon learning of her achievement, Sobers replied, “It was shocking. I have learnt to evaluate myself and when you know to do that, you say ‘yes, I can accept this award’.
“Being (named) with the other top officials, then you’ll see where your level is at and you’ll know if you’re at the same level is at. So yes, I’m in good (company).”
The D’Abadie, Arouca resident was a member of the Joe Public women football team before making the switch to officiating.
“I was a footballer in (my) 20s, and you know the hiccups in our footballing fraternity,” said Sobers. “So, I looked for the next best option within the game and I saw refereeing.”
The role of a referee is a tough one, as they must be on top of their game, especially in this era of VAR (Video Assistance Replays) and social media pundits.
During her early stages as a referee, she acknowledged, “Confidence was not there at that point in time. It was just about being in the game because I loved (it) so much.
“Confidence (was) built when you now acknowledge what is required as a referee. I had training, knowing the laws. I said ‘okay because you enjoy the game, you aim higher’.”
Look Loy, one of her coaches at the now defunct Joe Public, recommended her to ex-national referee and instructor Krishna Kuarsingh in 2011.
“During that time was the hiccup (with her playing career) so I didn’t know much of the game, practically nor technically. So when (Look Loy) recommended me, Kuarsingh invited me to elite training. And there is where I developed the whole competency of refereeing.”
Sobers has only officiated in matches within the CONCACAF region.
She said, “It is hard getting on the panel and it is even harder to remain. This is your personal time you’re sacrificing. You have work, school and you have to find time to train.
Sobers added, “Every game is memorable. I have one game that I really loved much which was a World Cup qualifier (in) 2016. That was USA versus Puerto Rico in Texas. Knowing that you’re refereeing the number one team was, and still, is a highlight.”
Sobers is employed in the field of office administration but has put her studies (she is pursuing business management) on hold.
Outside of football, Sobers described herself as outgoing. But she said, “But it’s a changed Crystal Sobers because of the career. I was socially involved but not now.”