This is a report from Pierre Acouri, a referee in the Advanced Referee Training Program (ART) on his recent assignment to the “Once in a Lifetime Legends Match” between Italy and Portugal.
Pierre is from Ottawa, Ontario. Also on the game crew were National Match Officials Yusri Rudolf, Justin Tasev and Peter Pendli, all Ontario referees. Yusri and Peter are also graduates of The Ontario Soccer Association’s ART Program.
Watching the World Cup as a young referee in Ontario, never did I think I would step on the same pitch as some World Cup stars such as Pauleta and Roberto Baggio – just to name a couple.
But on July 21 I got that chance. It was also my first time stepping on the pitch at BMO Field in Toronto – one with a crowd of thousands in attendance.
While I have watched many MLS matches on TV, walking out of the tunnel beside a crew of National referees and some of the greatest players in the history of the sport, was an honour I will never forget.
As the National anthems played, I started to have feelings of joy and happiness – a lifelong dream had come true. As the game was about to begin, I knew it was now time to show everyone why I was here and that I could perform the task at hand. I could hear the lingering voice of Isaac Raymond (a former national level referee and referee assessor) in my head telling me to stay focused and be sure and confident in my decisions.
A highlight that stood out for me was around the 70th minute when the entire crowd started doing the wave that went around the stadium a few times. It reminded me of the entertainment factor this match brought the crowd and it was good to see everyone enjoying this legendary match I had been chosen to participate in.
Through the A.R.T. and mentorship programs, I believe I have matured tremendously as a referee in the past few years and look forward to the next step in my career and where it will bring me.