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Brian Hall's World Cup blog: Our champions

July 2, 2014

By PRO Match Official Development Manager Brian Hall

“Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it.  The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.” - T. Alan Armstrong

The FIFA World Cup is the ultimate stage for champions to be crowned. Once this four-week spectacle is completed, there will be multiple World Cup champions and it won’t be just the team that lifts the 13.5 pound trophy on July 13.

In the hours, weeks, months and years leading up to the Brazilian edition of the World Cup, Team USA and Team Geiger - referees Mark Geiger, Sean Hurd and Joe Fletcher, and let’s not forget the other representative, Eric Boria - have sacrificed more than can be imagined for their shot to blow a whistle and wave a flag during the world’s most prestigious sporting event. 

These representatives of PRO and the North American soccer family had to fight to find the right ‘balance’ as they maneuvered through their journey. The balance between family, friends, career, and soccer.  

In reality, what did ‘balance’ mean to them? It meant that the pendulum was heavily weighted towards soccer because without that additional sacrifice, they would be left behind. What is normally an avocation based on pride and passion - especially for the assistant referees and for Mark until he became a full-time referee under the PRO umbrella - suddenly becomes a profession, requiring full-time attention and dedication.

You may wonder what type of sacrifices the family, friends and employers are put through. Here are a few…

How about three years of all vacation time going towards soccer-related activities: attending FIFA, CONCACAF, and PRO seminars, participation in camps and tournaments for up to three weeks at a time. The only contact with the ‘real’ outside world is through the magic of Skype or email.

How about less time to solidify and foster relationships because you have to be on the training field fine tuning your fitness level or locked up behind closed doors analyzing thousands of clips showing careless, reckless and excessive force in every variety imaginable.  

The 5:30am alarm. The 6:30am sunrise as you walk out the door to face your first fitness challenge of the day. In your soccer career, how many dinners have you missed or canceled?  How many cramps have you experienced while sitting at your office desk or at the lunch table?  How many decisions have you had that have caused you to miss hours of sleep? This has been the life of Team Geiger for the last three years.

How about less time to share smiles and laughs with your children, significant other, nieces, nephews and others. 

Instead, you are watching other games and other officials to develop your ‘book’ on the real intricacies (player and team tactics, attitudes and skills) of the game but the ones that will, most likely, deliver the biggest results.

For Mark, Sean, Joe and Eric, these sacrifices paid off. They survived three grueling and stressful years that preceded their first steps onto the green pastures of Brazilian stadiums. They made it and they continue to make the most of it. They are champions.

They are champions not merely because of their performances on the fields of Brazil but because of their performances off the field. Performances that required them to have a patient and forgiving supporting cast. 

Regardless of what is next for these North American representatives, they are our champions and they have been models of dedication, professionalism and character.

As we reflect back on our champions - Mark, Sean, Joe and Eric - we will remember their performances and the joy their work brought us before anything else, including the games that they directed.  

We will remember their smiles in the face of tension as millions of nationalist viewers tracked their every step and decision. We will remember the accuracy and decisiveness of their decisions.

Team USA and Team Geiger, you have added credence to the definition of American spirit. You have fought against all odds and against the soothsayers who said Americans couldn’t compete on the world stage (that’s what I was told in 2002).

Your never-give-up attitude has become contagious. And you have shown that success is measured by never giving up.   

Speaking of champions, let us not forget Jair Marrufo - a world-class champion in his own right. A world-class referee who sacrificed so much leading up to the World Cup and who continues to approach every match as if it were his World Cup.  

Jair deserves to be in Brazil but the stars did not align properly. Jair, we are all proud of you and all you have done to put professional officiating in North America on the map.


This is Brian Hall's fourth blog of his World Cup series - click here to read his other three blog entries.

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