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PRO AR Joe Fletcher looks ahead to the next World Cup

July 22, 2014

Greg Barkey and the PRO crew at FC Dallas

PRO assistant referee Joe Fletcher has already turned his attention to the next FIFA World Cup after returning home to Canada following 45 days in Brazil.

Fletcher, from St. Catharines, Ontario, was one third of the PRO trio that excelled at the tournament, alongside Mark Geiger and Sean Hurd, earning plaudits from around the world.

Now, the 38-year-old, who is a chartered accountant, is focusing on the next World Cup in Russia in 2018, after spending some much-needed time with his family.

“The first thing we did when I got back was take the kids out,” Fletcher told proreferees.com.

“Looking back on Brazil, I'm very pleased with my performance. I could have undone 25 years of officiating by being remembered for going to the World Cup and getting a big call wrong, as opposed being complimented, which I have been, for the decision in the France versus Nigeria game. 

“It’s about starting all over again now, looking towards the next World Cup. I’m eligible for 2018, as is Mark, but unfortunately Sean is too old. It’s a long way until those decisions are made but it’s all about starting over again.

“Of the 20 referees that could have returned from the last World Cup in 2010 to this World Cup, based on age, only six were there. There’s no right of passage to the next tournament, it’s about working hard.”

In Brazil, Geiger, Hurd and Fletcher were assigned to three games as a crew – group games Colombia versus Greece and Spain versus Chile, as well as the Round of 16 clash between France and Nigeria.

Getting those games at the world's biggest soccer event came after a long journey that started back in 2011 when the trio became a refereeing crew. Since then, they have worked a number of FIFA tournaments and have developed a strong bond away from soccer that has helped their on-field performances improve.

Their route to Brazil took in various tournaments including two CONCACAF Gold Cups, in 2011 and 2013 and the 2012 Olympics, before their pre-Brazil assignment to the 2013 Club World Cup.

“The Club World Cup is in December so there's no coming back if you make a mistake as the selection for the World Cup is in January. You could potentially ruin two years of work with one decision. But, every FIFA tournament that we went to, we worked games in the knockout stages.

“If it looks like Mark, Sean and I work as a team on the field and get along well that couldn’t be closer to the truth. You can’t make it on such a big stage without genuinely liking each other and getting along.

“We joke around and my teammates will tease me to the end of the earth about certain things, particularly because whenever somebody says we are 'America's team' I'm the first person to correct them. I'm extremely proud of representing Canada at the World Cup.

“The pieces fit with the three of us. It’s a team and each of us has a role in this team.  They’re my brothers from the south and they are top-class people. The World Cup in Brazil is definitely the highlight of my career so far – nothing comes close to it.”


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