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From Businessman to World Cup Referee

Posted July. 22, 2006 03:12,   


It began as a hobby, but it led him on to the World Cup grounds.

Kim Dae-yeong (age 44), the only Korean to referee in the 2006 FIFA Germany World Cup, took part as an assistant referee in the third-place play-off match between Germany and Portugal.

A Businessman Training Daily for his Hobby-

He was not a professional soccer player, but a businessman in distribution. Beginning from playing in a hobby club, he went on to lead a “double life” of work and soccer, finally making his way to the World Cup. Even in freezing mid-winter mornings of negative 13 degrees Celsius, Kim never missed a day in his training routine, wearing two pairs of gloves to keep them from the cold as he ran around the Mok-dong stadium in Yangcheon-gu near his home. Looking up to the international airplanes that flew over his head, he had promised to himself that someday he would stand on the World Cup field as a referee. “True, I tried hard, but this was made possible by the warm support of the Korean Football Association and other referees,” he said.

In the selection process, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chose six referees, who in turn picked assistant referees out of the pool of 20 nominees named by the AFC. Kim came in second out of all the AFC assistant referees in the fitness tests.

After the third-place game, referees were awarded commemorative medals, a moment when he thought, “Finally, I made it.” Showing tears would have been shameful, he says, but his heart had soared.

Passing Six Running Tests of Running 40 Meters in Less Than Six Seconds-

Kim is 44 years old this year, a year less than the age limit for FIFA referees. He had to pass tests in rules, English and physical capacity to grab his last chance to participate in the World Cup. In the physical assessments held in Frankfurt, Germany in March and April, speed tests consisted of six rounds of running 40m under 6.2 seconds for referees and six seconds flat for assistant referees, who have to run faster. Next were the endurance tests where the candidates had to run 150m under 30 seconds and walk 50m under 40 seconds, repeating the process 20 times. Eight out of 80 assistant referees dropped out.

Taking up soccer too late to become a player himself, he turned his attention to refereeing, starting the path in 1994 and becoming an international referee in 1998.

During the 2006 World Cup games, referees stayed at a designated hotel, training in the mornings to the orders of their private trainer, as they must run as much as the players. Another exercise often repeated was one of “instant response,” when they had to make instantaneous calls in case of ambiguous offside situations, recording the plays to compare their own decisions with actual calls from the game. Afternoons were spent analyzing and discussing referees’ decisions with video analysts.

Mistakes Found in After-Game Analyses-

Analyzing the games afterwards actually showed a number of inaccurate refereeing cases. In the France-Spain match, the referee had failed to see that a French player had fallen on his own fault, giving a warning to a Spanish team member and awarding a free-kick which eventually led to the second goal against Spain. However, Kim says that many countries accepted the referees’ decisions without much complaint.

“A referee can make mistakes, being only human. But I’m against computer refereeing,” declared Kim, explaining how it is only right for a game between people to be refereed by people, and that such a sport cannot be bound by machinery.

“I hope both the Korean national team and Korean referees will be able to participate in the 2010 World Cup tournament again,” he said.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com