Oceania Football Confederation > News > Unclassified > UP CLOSE WITH THE REF&039;S: MIKE HESTER AND PETER O&039;LEARY

UP CLOSE WITH THE REF&039;S: MIKE HESTER AND PETER O&039;LEARY

AUCKLAND – Mike Hester and Peter O’Leary are two of New Zealand’s top referee’s.

They have both recently returned from the OFC Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Fiji, where they found the time to sit down with OFC and detail their experiences.

Mike Hester

How did the OFC Men’s Olympic Football tournament in Fiji compare to other tournaments you have refereed at?

This was my fourth OFC tournament since becoming FIFA in 2007 and they continue to get better and better in terms of organisation and professionalism.

The OFC Referees Committee focused on creating a professional set up for referees during tournaments – not just in performances on the field but also off the field.

As they say, excellence is a habit, not an act and for the OFC Olympic Qualifiers, the referees were expected to work hard off the field in order to improve performances on the field.

Rest days started with physical recovery and technical sessions, and were followed by extensive debriefs of the performances of the previous day’s matches. Later in the day, there were further sessions in the classroom to reinforce coaching points and seek improvement for the following day’s matches.

All of this was supported by a daily discipline of a daily dress code and an expectation of punctuality and concentration.’

How is refereeing an Olympic qualifier different from other matches?

All OFC tournaments are important but there is a certain prestige that accompanies the Olympic Qualifiers. The Olympics only come along every four years and many players will only get one chance to compete for a qualifying berth. This, coupled with national pride, intensifies the football. The tournament in Fiji was no different and made all of the games fast, intensive, and exciting. Officiating these kinds of matches is very challenging – just the way we like it!’

What challenges did you face in your own personal performances in Fiji?

Refereeing at OFC tournament is always a learning experience. The styles of football vary, the athleticism of the players is significantly different to back home, and not all of the players speak English. These can present new challenges and are invaluable in developing your versatility as an international referee’.

What problems do you run into with taking time off work to ref? Is this an issue?

Refereeing at this level requires a lot of work and commitment. This level of commitment has to be balanced with your personal and professional life. Fortunately, my employer, the Navy, sees the benefit of my contribution to the game and has created the opportunity for me to balance my professional and personal ambitions. I could not ask for anything more!’

Peter O’Leary

What did you enjoy about Refereeing in Fiji?

It was really good to see the up and coming players in the Oceania region and to officiate at a higher standard with larger crowds. Some great goals were scored as well as a good level of skill shown by the players and it was a joy to be involved.

Was this tournament different to others you have been involved in?

It was very similar to the other FIFA and OFC tournaments that I have officiated at. We trained every day and all the referees worked together to ensure greater consistency on the field.

We had debriefings after all the games to see how we could better our performances for the next game we were involved with.

We also had the use of DVD replays of the games to show us important incidents and what to do to prevent them in the future.

What challenges did you face in your own personal performances in Fiji?

Staying focussed on games where one team was dominant over another was especially difficult. I needed to make sure that I was concentrating over the whole 90 minutes and did not switch off when the game became easy to officiate.

The heat was also difficult but after officiating at a number of OFC tournaments I water-load before the game and make sure that I look after my diet to help combat the effects of the heat.

Do you feel that players at international level give referee’s enough respect?

I feel that the more experience a referee has officiating games involving players at the international level the better. The players will come to know the referee and respect his or her decisions.

It is always harder to referee games where you don’t know the players, however, the first 10-20 minutes sets the tone of the game and this shows the players what the referee will tolerate and what will not be tolerated. After this the players usually respect the referee’s authority.

What problems do you run into with taking time off work to ref? Is this an issue?

As a school teacher I find it hard to get time away from school to officiate at tournaments, as I want to ensure my students get the best education I can offer them which is hard to do when I am overseas refereeing football.

When I am absent from school I have to set work for my students to cover while I am away and this can have an impact on those students who are studying for national exams.

Last year I had about three months away from home refereeing football overseas (two of these months were during school time) so it is starting to become an issue with both my school (job that pays the bills) and my family.

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