Scottish FA referees Andrew Dallas and Graeme Stewart received appointments to Group Six of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round that was held in Scotland last week.
Here, they blog about their week as the under-17 teams of Scotland, Romania, Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina battled it out for a place at this summer’s finals in Malta.
Days 1-4 by Andrew Dallas
Days 5-7 by Graeme Stewart
Day 1, Sunday 23/3/14
I arrived at the hotel at 7pm after a long drive from Brechin after refereeing a match, on arrival I was worried that I was several hours late when in fact the only person to arrive before me was my fellow Scottish official Graeme Stewart who informed me that he had been eating shortbread and drinking tea in the bar for the past two hours waiting on others arriving.
After the arrival of all officials we attended the welcoming meeting that was hosted by our two Uefa observer’s Mr Uno Tutk from Estonia and Mr Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez from Spain. The meeting was too explain the format of the tournament and to discuss the rules that will be applied.
On conclusion of the meeting it was a quick bite to eat and then off to bed for some much needed rest. I received a phone call from Graeme who was very excited to discover that the room contained even more packets of Walkers Shortbread.
Day 2, Monday 24/3/14
Match Day 1 – Belgium v Romania
It was an early rise Monday for our 12pm kick off at Cappielow, Greenock. Our liaison officers Kenny Hope and Bill Machray advised we would be leaving at 9:15 for our trip to the ground. 1 hour 45 mins later myself and Graeme along with our Russian colleagues safely arrived at the ground after a couple of near misses on way due to the Glasgow traffic.
The match was evenly contested between both teams with a final result of 0-0.
Upon arriving back at the hotel we experienced our first de-brief with our Uefa observer Uno Tutk. The match passed without any major incident and the observer was happy with our team performance.
Graeme spent the next 3 hours trying to pick the 4 metres of double sided tape he had used to fix his Scottish FA badge to his referee top. The evening was spent relaxing in the hotel with our colleagues where we enjoyed a fantastic meal.
Day 3, Tuesday 25/3/14
Graeme and I trained on the Rugby Park pitch along with our fellow officials who were surprised by the intensity of our recovery session (in truth this turned out to be a high intensity training session). We then attended our first video de-brief where we discussed coaching points from the match and received positive feedback on our performance. Graeme celebrated with a slice of shortbread.
Our evening consisted of a light meal and a lengthy pre-match discussion with our Finnish colleagues, 1 hour 30 mins later it was off to bed for some much needed rest.
Day 4, Wednesday 26/3/14
Match Day 2 – Bosnia v Romania
Once again we were lucky to have the early kick-off being played at Somerset Park, Ayr. Again the match was an evenly contested affair with Bosnia ending up 1 nil victors. Our observer for this match was the vastly experienced Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez, who has officiated some of the biggest matches worldwide. We got the opportunity to work with our Finnish colleagues and the feedback from our observer once again was positive.
Following another tough training session on the Rugby Park pitch we decided to relax for the evening and sat down to watch the live SPFL football match with our Finnish colleagues. We celebrated the 35th birthday of the Finnish assistant referee Ville Koskiniemi and he was introduced to haggis and a gift of complimentary shortbread from Graeme of which I’m sure he shared with Graeme.
Day 5, Thursday 27/3/14
Rest Day/ Recreational Day
Following a light breakfast filled with refereeing stories by Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez we all gathered for our trip to Hampden where we would give our foreign colleagues a tour of the football museum which shows the legends of Scottish football who have graced the hallowed turf. This was then followed by lunch in Glasgow city centre where Andrew ordered his 10th fillet steak of the week (unknown to me placing it on my room tab).
On return Andrew and myself went to what can only be described as the coldest gym in Scotland while our colleagues opted for the warmer surroundings of the sauna and steam room.
After another tough training session the evening consisted of our official dinner which was attended by members of the Scottish FA and club officials from the participating teams. We enjoyed a fantastic meal, Andrew enjoying another beautiful steak “room 209 Stewart”.
The remainder of the evening was a relaxing affair socialising with new friends talking over our refereeing experiences to date.
Day 6 Friday 28/3/14
After a late breakfast where a lot of black coffee was consumed by some, suffering the after effects of a fantastic official dinner it was off to Rugby park for training. This consisted of a light session in preparation for our final match the following day.
We then received the results of our video test, the Scottish pairing scoring a respectable 18 out of 20 only to be pipped at the final hurdle by our Russian colleagues who scored 19.
The afternoon was spent relaxing with a light lunch, some of our colleagues trying ‘haggis’ for the first time. All thought the dish was lovely until Andrew and I explained where it originates. The colour quickly drained from some of their faces.
Prior to our evening meal we all met in the meeting room for the final time and reviewed the video footage from our second matches again the feedback received was positive for the Scottish officials.
It was then off to bed to prepare for the matches the next day which unfortunately did not carry the same competitive edge as Scotland U17’s had qualified for the final tournament in Malta with one game to spare.
Day 7 – Saturday 30/3/14
Match Day 3/ Final Day
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Belgium
The final day of the mini tournament was not long in coming around and whilst the group had already been decided the pressure on the match officials had not relinquished any as it was important we all finished strongly. The match was a close affair in the early stages however Bosnia eventually ran out resounding winners 3 goals to nil.
On return to the hotel we had our final match de-brief with our uefa observer Uno Tutk, once again the match going well for myself and Andrew.
The final evening was spent enjoying a lovely meal and a few light refreshments with our new found friends.
Overall the mini-tournament has been a success and very enjoyable with myself and Andrew getting a glimpse of what life would be like as a full time match official.