[A REF'S VIEW] Soccer Americans who have watched the New York Marathon on TV know that New York City is made up of five boroughs. I grew up in the borough of Queens and our home was a short corner kick from Kennedy Airport. I went to college and worked for many years in the borough of Manhattan.
As a teenager, I watched the City University of New York (CUNY) men’s basketball playoffs on cable TV. So it was a thrill for me to be assigned to ref the very first CUNY men’s soccer final in 1990 at the age of 28. As I keep a record of every game that I have officiated, I know that the final was played on October 27, 1990 at Lehman College in the Bronx and York College defeated John Jay College, 2-1.
This being soccer in the melting pot of New York City, players born in over 20 countries competed in that inaugural championship game. Both my assistant referees (then called linesmen) were born overseas and there was just one player on the field that day who, like me, was born in the USA. The winning York coach was Tim Bradbury, newly arrived from England. Tim was selected as the 1990 CUNY Coach of the Year and he then dedicated himself to becoming a top youth soccer coach and, more than two decades later, he is now also the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association Director of Coaching Instruction.
Before that game, as I was giving my pregame instructions to the linesmen, I sensed that they were not taking this match as seriously as I would like so I told them that we had to give 110 percent especially as it’s a final and “this game is like the World Cup final to these players.”
I’ll admit that none of us were intimidated by the surroundings. There was a crowd of 30 people and no pregame introductions or festivities.
Fast forward 23 years later and I was assigned to be assistant referee 1 (the AR by the bench) for the 2013 CUNY men’s soccer final played at the renovated turf field at Brooklyn College on Saturday night, November 9. It was part of a doubleheader as CUNY now has a women’s soccer program and the women played before the men.
In the women’s final, Brooklyn College defeated the College of Staten Island, 3-1, while Baruch College topped the City College of New York, 1-0, in the first overtime (as college soccer plays golden goal) in the men’s final to clinch a NCAA Division 3 tournament berth for both the Brooklyn College women and Baruch men.
More importantly for me was the difference that a generation has made in the acceptance of soccer. SRO crowds of over a thousand people watched both games, singing soccer songs throughout each game. Security, non-existent 23 years ago, was provided by many NYPD police officers. Pregame and postgame festivities coordinated by the CUNY staff and the conference now has six sponsors.
2013 CUNYAC Men's Soccer Championship (90-second video):
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com/)