Play. Inspire. Unite.
A five-year strategic initiative, the Long Term Official Development (LTOD) program is now an integral part of what Ontario Soccer delivers.
LTOD will provide a standards-based education and development program, through strong leadership, inclusivity and support.
As part of that, the In It For The Long Term series puts a focus on the match officials who are dedicated to their role and are taking their development seriously.
This week, In It For The Long Term speaks with Farzan Mirzazadeh, a Grade 8 District Match Official with Elgin-Middlesex Soccer Association.
I decided to become a match official because I love football, and I always want to remain involved in it. After a serious and untimely knee injury curtailed my playing career in League1 Ontario, I focused more on refereeing as a precautionary measure. I’ve always admired watching the world’s finest referees perform, because it takes more than just knowing the laws of the game to develop into a top match official. I love refereeing. For me, it’s enjoyable at all times—even when players, coaches, and spectators get upset and react. I believe that those emotions, as long as they do not overstep the mark, are all part of the game. For me, the unpredictability of the rollercoaster of emotions we experience is what makes football “the beautiful game.”
The OPDL has really helped me progress exponentially as a referee. It has given me the opportunity to regularly showcase my officiating abilities in front of assessors and mentors. As a result, the OPDL provided me with the platform to truly launch my refereeing career. I have now had the privilege to have refereed the opening game at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, the U16 Gold Medal Game at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, and the U16 2017 OPDL Cup Final. I am also part of the League1 Ontario select referees group. In terms of the technical aspect, the much-improved quality of football in the OPDL also allows referees to work on their anticipation and positioning, as there is generally more of an emphasis on the four phases of the game in OPDL matches.
The League1 Ontario referees training camp was an eye-opening experience in terms of some of the expectations and training exercises that are required as a higher-level match official. I had the fortune of being mentored and assessed by Justin Tasev in the final of the 2017 North American Indigenous Games this past summer. Justin only recently stepped down from the National List and retired as one of the longest serving members of the Canadian Soccer Association’s National Program. Evidently, the post-match debrief that I had with him was incredibly valuable. His feedback really opened my eyes to a wide range of different elements that I would never have considered on my own, and it felt great to have such a distinguished and well-respected individual give me some important advice for the future. I also find that the interactive classroom video sessions (run by Tony Camacho) have really benefited my development as a match official.
I wouldn’t mind having that FIFA patch to be honest! All jokes aside though, I’d like to push myself as high as I can go. This will sound like the biggest cliché ever, but the sky really is the limit. It’s about how hard you work, and how determined you are to reach your goals. I prefer setting short-to-medium term objectives for myself, and continuously readjusting my targets as I successfully meet them. For now, I just want to improve as much as I can, gain a ton of experience, and move up the refereeing grade ladder as efficiently as possible, all whilst reassessing my progression periodically. In terms of how I go about achieving my objectives, I continue to follow the steps that I took as a player - preparation and execution.
LTOD is an excellent initiative, and it’s great to see that the plan is being implemented in such an effective manner. It is just as important to have a proper system that provides a pathway for referees to learn, gain experience, and improve. Referees need to constantly train and develop, or else there is no way they’ll get better. In fact, it is quite similar to the fact that players must practice and play on a regular basis. Therefore, the creation of the LTOD is a vital tool that will not only benefit match officials but will also improve the quality of games and of football as a whole, in our province.
If you want to learn more about LTOD and what it could mean for your development as a match official, visit the LTOD section on the Ontario Soccer website.
Grade 8 District Official