Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
SUNRISE, Florida (USA):
Three of Jamaica's top football match officials were among the best of the best who completed a four-day course involving elite referees from the CONCACAF region here last week.
Referees Courtney Campbell and Kevin Morrison, plus assistant Ricardo Morgan, joined colleagues from throughout Central America, North America and the Caribbean region to brush up on the laws of the game and test their physical fitness.
Peter Prendergast, chairman of the Jamaica Football Federation Referees Committee and a former FIFA World Cup match official, also participated in the course as an instructor.
According to the referees, who were selected based on their performance in the local leagues, the course served to sharpen their skills.
"It opens your eyes," said Campbell, Jamaica's only elite referee, on Saturday's final day.
Campbell, who has officiated close to 100 international games, called the course challenging, with the emphasis on doing everything well.
"If you fail one part of the course, then it's no use for you being here," he explained." So we have to pass the entire course, both in the classroom, as it relates to laws, and on the pitch as it relates to fitness."
Eyes int'l spot
Campbell is hoping to eventually get a spot among the pool of international referees designated for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil. Morgan is already part of that group as an assistant referee. However, selection to the pool is still open, with referees able to earn - and lose - their place base on performances leading up to the game's biggest showcase. However, each Jamaican had a varying reasons for participation in last week's course.
"Different purposes," explained Prendergast, Referees Assistant Programme instructor for FIFA, football's world governing body.
"First of all, it is an elite referees' course and Courtney (Campbell) is here as one of the elite referees. Ricardo (Morgan) is here because he's a part of the World Cup shortlisted trio ... . And Kevin is here primarily because we are introducing an exchange with the NASL league and he is here to officiate in the game (Saturday night). So (we are) exposing him to what the elite referees look like, and how we operate, and the opportunity to officiate in the game."
Morrison officiated in a North American Soccer League (NASL) game between Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Carolina Railhawks at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The assignment was part of a programme launched by CONCACAF, which allows referees from outside North America to officiate games there in a league with Caribbean teams and vice versa. Morrison's performance was evaluated by course participants and referee assessors. He believes the course has boosted his development.
"It exposes you to a higher level of learning," said Morrison, "in the sense that you've seen things that you need to do.
"One of the things that happened in this course is that they are stressing on consistency. One of the key points in refereeing is positioning and movement, in that you have to create angles; and in creating angles you can be able to make the best, or not the best, but the correct decision at the right time. And that is refereeing."
Key additional benefit
According to Campbell, being able to integrate with top CONCACAF officials has a key additional benefit.
"We find ourselves among the best of the best in CONCACAF," he said. "That's the reason we are here. We have competitions like the World Cup Qualifying, we have the (CONCACAF) Champions League coming up and we want to ensure that all the referees in CONCACAF, who are going to officiate in these games, are speaking the same language."
"Bear in mind that this is the cream of the crop," added Prendergast. "So the expertise that would have been attained by the referees from the different countries around the region, it is necessary for them to take this back into their own countries to help the development of the up and coming referees."