Well - I apologize in advance for letting this blog slip a bit - although I'm not sure if the target audience wants to hear about how I climbed the Rock of Gibraltar, or visited the dressing rooms at Barcelona's Camp Nou, or missed my train in Paris, or got stopped at the border in London because the guards thought my referee ball pump was a weapon.
I also probably shouldn't talk about how Brad and I were given the privilege of driving an hour into Malaga today to pick up one of the best referees in the world - Mark Clattenburg.
All of the above happened before my first game even kicked off today - Valencia U15's vs Skoppen IF U15 ( Valencia won 21-0 by the way, yes......... 21-0).
Brad and I enjoyed the last few days in Barca before making our way to Malaga via train. We were then given a free day yesterday - which allowed us to rent a car and drive to Gibraltar! Cross one off the bucket list - it was a clear enough day that we were able to see Morocco across the Strait! Wowza.
Due to a mixup at the tournament HQ - and due to the fact that Brad and I had rented a car, the torunament asked us if we could personally pick up one of the biggest Premier League and FIFA officials in the world - Mark Clattenburg from the Malaga Airport today. We were honoured - and it was a really great one hour spent one on one picking his brain and having him tell stories about his Champions League refereeing and life outside of it!
Down to business though. My first game was assigned at the Munoz Perez stadium - Valencia vs. Skoppen IF as mentioned above. I only called one foul (a penalty nonetheless) as Valencia literally decimated their opponents from top to bottom. Quite the eye opener - the difference between a professional La Liga academy and a non professional team was crazy. I had the privilege of working with an all-Italian crew today - in Italy they train referees to be either middle referees or Assistants right from the start - so my assistants today actually had quite little experience on the line. Different from Canada where we are trained to do both well throughout our development path. They also have distinct styles different from us in how they signal - an Italian flair if you will.
All in all a good start - no fights, no one dropped dead from the heat today ( it was 37C in the shade ).
Can't believe I've been over here 8 days already - 16 left! Wow.