This past week myself, Guy Beale and Glenn Turner jetted off to Medellín, Colombia to deliver another one of our Referee Training Camps in association with Corporación Arbitral, Social y Deportiva de Antioquia (CASDA). What a fantastic experience we had and I'm very positive that we can come home saying job well done!
The guys we worked with showed great potential, enthusiasm and their attitude was second to none. It was an absolute pleasure to work with them, train them and improve their refereeing which is what we set out to do and we hope their experiences will help them going forward.
One thing that struck me was that in Colombia they don't have the same funding that we are lucky to have in England, but what they do give you is a lot of warmth and friendship, they give you everything in abundance. It was fantastic to engage in their culture and we were very well looked after. It was also great to see FIFA referee Wilmar Roldan and Juan Da Monsalve, who helped organise the camp, and also I'd like to mention Sebastian Ruiz, our translator whom without, it certainly wouldn't have been a success.
They've got a lot of talented officials out there and what impressed me most was the endeavour they have to get their youngsters off the street and get them involved in refereeing with CASDA. It was fantastic to see that and the work they do to help their community. I can see You Are The Ref forming a strong partnership with them as we move forward.
On the first day I was able to give a talk where I reflected on my experiences and my battle with cancer which I have to say was quite emotional. For me, it's something I have talked about publically for years and so it doesn't affect me as much these days, but those in the audience were clearly moved by what I was saying which was unbelievable. There were also plenty of practical sessions where I took the referees whilst Guy and Glenn took on the assistant referees. They did a great job in giving their specialist coaching and both gave a great presentation after which had the audience hooked. I then gave a talk on foul challenges and it was stimulating to see a lively debate with the guys and the interest they showed in improving their knowledge showed how worthwhile the trip was.
We also took in a Colombian football match between Independiente Medellín and Millonarios which was a memorable experience. The fans are unbelievable with the atmosphere they create. The national anthem is played before every game and the fans embrace this, they don't stop singing before, during and long after the actual game.
All in all, it was a very valuable trip and we hope that we represented You Are The Ref and portrayed our message to the guys out there about what we do in a positive way. We've got quality coaches who have been there and done it and great credit to the CASDA who made us feel at home from the minute we landed. Hopefully we can continue what we've now started and flourish our partnership in the forthcoming years.