After 15 years as a referee, countless number of games, Cup Finals and International duties, this was the day that has been the most memorable in my refereeing career. On this Saturday November 19, 2011, at 10:15am on an artificial surface a father stands watching his daughter blow the whistle for the first time. C. Alexandra is now officially a referee for the Bermuda Football Association. Dressed in the traditional black and white that signifies “the man in the middle”, here was my 16 year old daughter taking the first step on her path to be Bermuda’s First Female FIFA listed Referee.
Alexandra has spent many hours of her life watching her father perform the duties of managing the game. She has seen the best and worst aspects of “the beautiful game”. She knows what the life of a referee is, she knows the pressure, the preparation and the passion that comes with the most played sport in the world. Alexandra never knew her father as a football player, she only knows “Francis the referee”, and even in the face of her peers whom she has heard describe her father in none too favorable terms. Alexandra decided that she wanted to join the ever increasing worldwide numbers of “the female referee”.
On her own terms, Alexandra sat next to the senior referee in training courses; she went through the fitness activities, was faced with the same questions and challenges as many of Bermuda’s Refereeing Corp and was not deterred. When FIFA referee instructors challenged her, she stood her ground and made her decision, took the correction and the praise with the same demeanor as has been branded by the more senior Francis referee. On this day there were two referees present on the field, one was working the game, the other was realizing a dream come true. While Alexandra was working out the nervousness of “doing her first game”, her father was demanding that the signals be clear and correct. The tone was only to hide the sheer amount of pride that any parents would feel when their child starts performing.
Alexandra has already excelled as an athlete, being a member of several Bermuda National field hockey teams; she has travelled extensively representing Bermuda, so one might ask “why become a football referee in Bermuda”. Alexandra simply understands in looking forward to her future that there are few opportunities that could be as beneficial or as extensive as becoming an elite referee. While many “footballers” are trying to become the next Messi, Lizarazu or Rooney which is a very good goal the rate of success is small in comparison to those that are looking to be the next Collina, Webb or Palmquist. While the names of the referees may not be as well known as their playing counterparts the sense of accomplishment when putting on the referee jersey is the same as pulling on a National Jersey. Today, Alexandra and Anthony Francis experienced that pride together. While many will not remember the game when Wolves and PHC under 10s played on the BFA Field in 2011 in the years to come, when these players are looking to become National Footballers, they will be still under the watchful eyes of a Francis Referee, simply applying the laws of the game fairly.
So Bermuda, remember this day, this was the day that there were two Francis referees, it was this day that Bermuda gained another Francis referee and while this might cause a shudder to our many football fans that have seen Version 1, I am sure that even the most cynical fan would be proud to know that Bermuda Football still attracts families to the game. This isn’t watching your child score their first goal, this isn’t watching them win their first trophy, in my opinion, it is bigger than that, it is the start of our next generation believing in the game that we love.