Referees don’t have to say heads or tails at toss up

date: 2012/2/15 At the beginning of last season, my wife and I spent a holiday in Turkey to celebrate a significant wedding anniversary. The season having already started meant that I was going to miss a couple of Match of the Days but I discovered a football match on the television in the hotel room. Not only that, it was a EURO 2012 qualifying match, Turkey v Azerbaijan and it settled a little query that had been bugging me for a couple of years. I had refereed a game in which one of the teams consisted of Greek Cypriots. Although they spoke Greek amongst themselves they could all speak English to varying degrees but I got a surprise when we went to the toss up before the game, I asked the Greek Cypriot skipper to call heads or tails. ‘What is this,’ he asked, ‘heads or tails?’ I thought at first that he was joking but then I realised that he was genuine, he didn’t understand the term ‘heads or tails’. Obviously, I pointed out the head on one side of the coin and explained that the other side was known as tails. The toss up then went forward without any problem but I had to ask myself the question, the Law says the kick off is decided by the toss of a coin, so if they don’t have heads and tails in the rest of the world, what do they have? It was now that I found my answer. As the television cameras panned in for a close up of the tossing up ceremony, the Turkish commentator, although I was unable to understand what he was saying, was obviously giving a run down on the career of the referee, Peter Rasmussen of Denmark.. Then it was the referee’s turn and the microphone picked up what he was saying. To my surprise he spoke to the captains in English. I should have remembered that for FIFA referees, English is the official language, but it did seem a little surreal, a Danish referee talking to the captains from Turkey and Azerbaijan in English. Did they understand him was my initial thought but his message was very simple. He pointed to one side of the coin and said ‘red’ and to the other side he said ‘yellow’. It was as simple as that but it was a lesson in itself, show the captains which is heads and which is tails. I was reminded of this last week because the leading European referees met for the annual winter course in Antalya on the Turkish Mediterranean, right next door to where we spent our anniversary holiday. Europe’s football governing body UEFA organises two main referees’ courses a year. A summer gathering where the referees are primed for the new season and a winter get together designed to guide the referee into the second half of the season. This year of course as well as UEFA matches to come such as the crucial later rounds of the UEFA Europa and Champions Leagues, for the chosen twelve officials, there is also UEFA EURO 2012. This year’s winter’s course also featured an introductory course for new International referees and there are no fewer than 43 new European names on the FIFA list. This was not the only meeting for top level referees, for in Paraguay round about the same time, they were holding the Conmebol Elite referees course. This was attended by referees from every country in the South American Zone. There, of course, they are looking forward to 2014 and the World Cup in Brazil. Amongst all the training that was carried out on both continents there were the various tests that FIFA insist on. These include the FIFA Fitness Tests and of course the interview to test their fluency in English. I doubt if they were asked to say ‘heads or tails?’

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