Referee Chris Sinclair has recently returned from Colombia, where he wrote himself into the history books by becoming just the second New Zealander to ever officiate at the FIFA Futsal World Cup. We sat down with Chris to hear all about his experiences at the biggest futsal event on the planet.
It would’ve been a long-term goal of yours to be selected for the World Cup. How did it feel to finally achieve that goal?
When I set my goals in 2012, my four-year focus was to work towards and officiate at the Futsal World Cup in Colombia 2016. So I was over the moon to receive the list of match officials appointed to the world cup and to see my name was there. I was very excited that all the hard work on and off the court over the last four years had paid off and that my long-term goal had been achieved.
Which games were you involved with and what was your role in each?
I was time keeper for Ukraine vs Mozambique, second referee for Mozambique vs Australia, Azerbaijan vs Iran, Argentina vs Ukraine (Round of 16), third referee for Egypt vs Thailand, Russia vs Iran (Semi-Final), and reserve assistant referee for Australia vs Brazil, Azerbaijan vs Portugal (Quarter-Final) and the final between Russia and Argentina.
The World Cup is a lot different to futsal in New Zealand in terms of the standard and the high-profile nature of the event. What were the main differences in officiating the games and how did you deal with some of the challenges (eg. big crowds, increased scrutiny etc)?
The main differences that come to mind would be the speed of the game, the players were very efficient with the ball so the ball speed and movement of players off the ball was at a higher level. All the teams were tactically sound and set plays were a major part of the tactics during all the games, so monitoring players on and off the ball was a must. Some of the major challenges that I came across were the language barriers, this was sometimes with the players and officials of the teams and also the team of match officials that I worked with. So to ensure we managed these road blocks, a comprehensive pre-match briefing was carried out so that each member of the referee team was on the same page for the game. To manage the players and officials for whom English wasn’t their first language, I had to learn some key phrases in different languages to use in these games.
How did you feel about your performances and what were the main learning experiences you took from the event?
I felt my performance on and off the court during the time I was away was world-class. I received some very good feedback during the competition so my confidence was high and this made my job a lot easier. Prior to travelling over, I had a few nerves as it my first World Cup and didn’t know what to expect. But on arrival and once settled into the hotel I felt very comfortable, relaxed and ready for any appointment. So going into my first game, which was Mozambique vs Australia, I was very relaxed and confident before and during the match. With this attitude and my performance during the game, I felt that if I took this into my next appointments I could only be moving forward. The learning experiences I took away with me from the World Cup would be that as a world-class referee you are always on show, with everything you do having to be professional and to the highest level. Prior to the competition, we had an in-depth programme (practical and theory) that was designed to get us match ready, from the finer details around positioning for the types of games we were going to be involved with, to the point of moving a fraction to see a foul or no foul in more details. The one major experience I took away with me was working with other world-class referees, both on and off the court, and bouncing around ideas and the ways they officiate to add these experiences to my tool box.
Away from the court, were there many opportunities to network, meet other referees and experience a different culture? How did you enjoy that aspect of the World Cup?
During the World Cup we got to travel to three different venues and see some new cities and experience the variety of city lifestyles. We had the chance to relax and spend some time experiencing these cultures. It was an enjoyable and rewarding experience to work alongside some world-class officials, assessors and coaches and to make some new life friends along the way.
Now that you have officiated at a World Cup, are there any other goals you would like to achieve and what’s coming up next for you?
Right now, it’s time for me to relax and spend some quality time with my family, I have a very supportive family and they have sacrificed and dedicated a lot of time in the past four years. Then in the near future it will be time to sit down and plan the next four years in preparation for the next World Cup. This will involve a programme for on and off-court work, working in the local leagues, national leagues and any international leagues or tournaments that come available for myself and my referee colleagues in New Zealand. During this time, I will pass on my knowledge from the World Cup and support my colleagues as they are a major support in me achieving my goals and aspirations.
How did you first get into futsal refereeing and what advice would you give to encourage others to give it a go?
I began playing futsal in 2004 in a local centre in Christchurch. This started out as a football team, playing some indoor football. Futsal had a few more rules than football, so I was interested in finding out these differences so I could adapt and become a better player. On completing a futsal refereeing course, this lead to some refereeing on a regular basis with the juniors and seniors as futsal was only new to Christchurch and there were very few referee’s. The decision to give up playing and focus on my referee career began in 2012. My advice would be that, if you are a player and are keen to jump on a course and learn the laws of the game and how to referee, you will become a better player for it. If you are keen on refereeing, you could have a great career, the chance to travel and possibly go on to big honours.