Europe's up-and-coming referees have received an invaluable push forward in their further development from UEFA's talents and mentors programme – by which the young referees are provided with expert guidance by experienced former European international match officials.
The latest gathering of talents and mentors – 11 referees, nine assistants and six mentors – at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon provided additional enlightenment for the young referees, with a presentation ahead of last week’s UEFA Europa League final by Spanish match official Carlos Velasco Carballo. The referee for last year's final, he he explained how he prepared for that 2011 encounter between FC Porto and SC Braga in Dublin.
A number of major referees, both from the present and recent past, have begun their ascent to the top through the talents and mentors' course. "A total of 177 referees and 43 mentors have taken part in the programme over the past 12 years," said UEFA Referees' Committee member Jozef Marko, one of the initiators of the programme. "The aim is to support young referees throughout Europe in their efforts to improve, both individually and in teamwork with assistant referees. We encourage you to work hard to achieve better results."
Both domestic and international performances are observed to put young referees into the UEFA programme. The mentors and talents are in constant contact, and discussions range from the referees' performance to their diet and general conduct. UEFA's view is that young referees should be given the same careful nurturing as young footballers.
In addition, the course included a practical training session along with the young referees taking part in training at UEFA's Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE). "Both the CORE programme and talents and mentors programme are here to give you the best opportunity from the best people in UEFA for instructing, coaching and mentoring," said UEFA Referees' Committee member David Elleray, senior course leader of CORE.
"The mentors have a huge amount of experience. Some of them were in Poland recently, coaching the referees for the EURO finals. Many of them have appeared in finals, so you have the best people to learn from. The responsibility is on you to learn and take information from them."
The practical session involved penalty area incidents, teamwork between referees and assistant referees, and special concentration work for the assistants, as well as an important session looking at injury prevention. "One of the worst things that can happen to any referee is to lose a big match through injury," said Elleray. "Injuries can come from lack of fitness, lack of preparation or occasionally bad luck. If you're fit and well-prepared, you are less likely to receive an injury.
"A talent doesn't mean that you have achieved something," he added. "It means we think that you have the possibility to achieve something. You must turn the potential that you have into the real thing."
European referees are being encouraged to include tactical analysis of teams in their preparation work. Velasco Carballo, one of the 12 UEFA EURO 2012 referees, gave a fascinating insight into his preparation for the 2011 UEFA Europa League final – how he studied information on the two finalists' tactics in attack and defence to know how to position himself, looked at the key players on each team, conveyed invaluable advance information and advice to his assistant referees to help their movement and awareness, and made use of key statistics.
The referees were also asked to analyse Wednesday's UEFA Europa League final in Bucharest, and Velasco Carballo was the ideal man on hand to review the incidents and events that occurred in the match between the two Spanish teams, Club Atlético de Madrid and Athletic Club.
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