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Question Number: 30469

Mechanics 5/31/2016

RE: Comp Under 17

John of Berkeley, CA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 30466

Any advice for a referee who doesn't speak any Spanish in an area where many games are predominantly with Latino players? I assume they could figure out I don't speak the language and take advantage, but other than learning to speak it (which I'd love to given the time) or doing fewer games, do you have any advice?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
Players soon figure out what is being communicated through signals, whistle tone, body language and cards. In many of my games the only reason I have to speak to players is usually to respond to questions, dissent about certain decisions. Okay I might warn a player about his behaviour yet I can easily do that with a card. So I could easily referee a game without words just through the use of cards and through signals. I see other colleagues who speak constantly to players which I do not agree with.
If I really wanted to use words I would learn a few simple words in the language such as No, Yes, Foul, handling, free kick etc. Just single words that are easily remembered.
Another skill that can be worked on is the use of the whistle. Referees should vary the tone of whistles during a game. Small foul is a small peep. A big foul gets a blast. Also getting players to do something can also be achieved by whistle. Referees should work on this to as they say let the whistle do the talking.
In addition if one watches say an international game the referee can easily animate what he has given such as handling, PIADM, throw in etc by gesture. I watched Referee Mark Clattenburg referee the two Spanish teams in the ECL final. Not all the player had English I suspect so on one handling call the referee gestured why he gave the FK.
I think that the only real issue is where a player uses OFFINABUS in his native language and the referee does not understand what was said. Even with that though one could easily detect the intent and I could go with a dissent caution based in the manner of the players reaction. A repeat and he is dismissed.

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Answer provided by Referee James Sowa


This is the beauty of soccer; it is truly a global game. Look at the how the international referees manage these situations. Notice how with some players they communicate solely with their body language and with others they will have a discussion. This is because the player they are actually talking to is able to communicate the information to the rest of the team. I would recommend looking for a similar communicator in your games who can convey anything critical to the rest of the team. I would also work on managing the game more with body language and whistle tone. There are several simple gestures you can use (some examples):

- Throw-in: Mimic taking a throw-in
- Handling: Touch your arm
- Grabbing: Pull on your shirt a bit
- Substitution: Two short whistles and then circle your hands over each other above your head.

You can also learn a few simple words such as falta (foul), no mas (no more), nada (nothing) but I would not recommend trying to communicate verbally too frequently as it is possible for misunderstandings to occur.

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