It’s official! Refereeing at the Homeless World Cup is fun.
Current regulations dictate that no individual can play in more than one tournament. Anyone wishing to extend their involvement in the global competition, however, can do so by burying their head in a rule book and learning the art of HWC refereeing.
Glasgow 2016 features three referees who previously competed in the tournament as players, and the trio are all revelling in the experience.
Having pulled on his country’s jersey with pride in Poznan three years ago, Norway‘s Adil Jaeead will be bursting with pride next year when the tournament moves to Oslo.
“It is much easier to play than being the man in the middle,” he smiled. “But I like football and feel very comfortable. It would be very special to referee in Norway. I would like to show my colleagues how beautiful Norway is. I can’t wait!”
The 27-year-old was born in Ethiopia but moved to Scandinavia as a teenager. His life became badly affected by drugs, though he is happy to say he has been clean for the past six years. “Drugs were my issue but not now,” he added. “I have been working on the coaching side of things with street soccer since 2010 and really enjoying life.”
Fellow debutant Jack ‘Jackie Chan’ Sandy is also getting used to calling the shots after playing in Amsterdam last year. “This is my first year as a referee and it has been very exciting,” said the Indonesian. “It is very different but very enjoyable. My first game this week was very nervous for me. It was quite a strange feeling to begin with but good fun. It is a bit cold here for me compared to the weather back home but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying the experience.”
Completing the trio who have swapped roles is Gilson Rebaero from Lisbon, who featured as a player for Portugal in Chile in 2014 and has since been officiating. This week has been a special time for the 27-year-old, having watched his country crowned champions of Europe on Sunday evening after Glasgow 2016’s opening-day excitement.
“It is a proud time to be from Portugal,” he said. “They played fantastic football to be European champions. I watched the final with colleagues here and there was a great atmosphere.”
Life was tough for Gilson when he was sleeping rough on the streets, but with the help of the Homeless World Cup he has turned things around.
“My past is all gone. It is all behind me and I now have a family and children,” he said. “This programme has helped me progress. Without this in my life, I would not be the same person.”
Images: Top, Anita Milas. Bottom, Alex Walker