Spindel’s Goal: FIFA Level Referee

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Harmon, Guam- Of all 46 member nations of the Asian Football Confederation, Guam is one of only two members that do not have a FIFA level referee. Guam’s Shawn Spindel is working to change that.

Spindel currently is in Hong Kong for the AFC U14 Championship Group H Qualifier where he hopes to be spotted and selected for AFC’s Project Future, a fast-track program for young referees to help develop them to eventually reach FIFA level status. He is participating in classroom sessions and training sessions with other young referees from the region to prepare for the tournament, which will run from April 11 to 17.

“My goal is to first be selected for Project Future and once selected, stay with it for further development as a referee,” Spindel said before leaving to Hong Kong. “Out of over 100 candidates, only a fraction of them are chosen for the two-year program. Within the two years, some may drop out or leave the program for whatever reason.

“During the tournament in Hong Kong, the games we officiate are our evaluations. We also have to pass a fitness test, game-analysis test, Laws of the Game test, and English proficiency. I’ve been told that assessors will be looking for young referees with the most potential to officiate at the highest level, and not necessarily the best in that particular tournament,” the 19-year-old Barrigada resident added.

In order to gain the experience comparable to other young referees from advanced football nations, Guam Football Association, through preparations and networking by George Stewart, the association’s referee instructor, sent Spindel to Japan for 17 days last month. In Japan, Spindel officiated at two different tournaments, a university festival and the Sanix Cup, a highly acclaimed international youth tournament. In this year’s Sanix Cup, teams from Australia, England, China, and Vietnam competed among Japan’s top high school football teams, Spindel said. Spindel was chosen to officiate alongside eight young referees from Project Future batch 2011, who are in the final stages of the program. AFC Project Future Referees Manager George Cumming, FIFA/AFC Elite Instructor Noboru Ishiyama and AFC Instructor John Chia evaluated the Project Future referees officiating in the tournament.

“We don’t have professional leagues or professional referees in Guam, nor the type of facilities that Japan has for referees,” Stewart said. “I worked with my peers in Japan who I’ve known for years to allow Shawn to gain the experience and training he needs to get to the next level.

“I hope to see big things happen for Shawn – he has huge potential,” Stewart added.

Stewart said he is working to make the referee exchange with Japan a consistent program, where more young, potential referees from Guam can gain higher-level officiating experience. Additionally, he hopes to have referees from Japan visit Guam to work with local referees, while at the same time to learn English, which is required at the highest levels.

“For sure, I gained a lot in Japan in terms of development,” Spindel said. “I was able to see how fast the games are played in Japan, even at a youth level – the level of play in Japan is completely different from that in Guam. The game is so controlled and passing is fast. You don’t see much of that in Guam.

“From the instructors’ viewpoint, I was advised that my movement as a referee is decent, but still needs to be improved, which comes from experience. After matches, we discussed good points and bad points, such as possible better positioning in certain instances, angles of view and so much more,” he added.

In Guam, Spindel personally chose to step down from Division I and play in Division II of the Budweiser Soccer League to be able to officiate Division I matches as a center referee. After much consideration, he also chose not to continue training with the Matao, Guam men’s national team, in order to focus on officiating. Spindel has represented Guam at various youth levels in the sport as a player and also at the senior level, most recently at the 2011 Pacific Games in Noumea, New Caledonia.

FIFA-level referees are not scarce in Asia. From 44 of AFC’s 46 member nations, there are close to 500 active FIFA-level male referees and close to 100 FIFA-level female referees. China, Japan, Korea Republic, IR Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have the most number of FIFA-level male referees in Asia at 16 each, while Myanmar, China, DPR Korea, and Japan have the most FIFA-level female referees in Asia at eight each. The only other FIFA member nation in Asia besides Guam without any FIFA-level referee is Timor-Leste, the FIFA.com Web site states.

Spindel said that AFC should be notifying GFA if he has been selected for Project Future Referees about a month or so after the AFC U14 Championship Group H Qualifier in Hong Kong. Results for the qualifier may be viewed at the AFC Web site, www.the-afc.com. Additionally, Guam will be sending the Mini Matao, its U14 national team, to China to compete in the AFC U14 Championship Group G Qualifier, which is scheduled for April 20 to 26.

Article from a press release.

frankie@spbguam.com    Follow PNC Sports on facebook