Ontario man will be the only Canadian referee at Brazil World Cup
Xiaoli Li, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, May 23, 2014 9:23AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 23, 2014 9:41AM EDT
Canada's national team hasn't qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1986, but that doesn't mean there won't be any Canadians participating in soccer's biggest tournament.
Joe Fletcher is a St. Catharines, Ont. resident, chartered accountant, father of two, and a FIFA international referee. This summer he’ll be a referee for the World Cup in Brazil.
"I've been playing (soccer) since I was little. At some stage, (refereeing) became the part time job instead of washing dishes someplace," Fletcher told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
Fletcher moved up the ranks and the Canadian Soccer Association eventually nominated him to FIFA's list of international referees. He was one of only four Canadians on that list.
Fletcher is an assistant referee, or linesman. Assistant referees operate along the field's touchlines and signal when the ball leaves the field of play or when a player has gone offside. They are also responsible for advising the game's chief official if a violation of the rules occurs.
Though refereeing is Fletcher's part-time job, he said the demands extend past part-time hours.
He had to travel to Zurich for medical testing, and said he's taken part in about 10 different fitness tests in the last two years.
Every month, he has to send FIFA a log outlining his workouts, but FIFA also has the right to run their own tests, without warning.
"At any point in time, if they have any problems, they reserve the right to fitness test you just to see if everything is kosher."
World Cup referees must be able to sprint 40 metres in 5.8 seconds, in order to keep up with the pace of play. "Given the speed of the modern game, I don't think that's anything exceptional," Fletcher said.
While he'll be gone for over a month for the World Cup, Fletcher said he has yet to be told which matches he'll be working.
"Three days before, maybe I'll find out what match I'm doing. The perception of neutrality is really important for referees," he said, explaining why he's being kept in the dark.
However, he is aware of the negative attention referees sometimes get, and hopes to shy away from the drama.
"With any luck I'll just be a background character at a corner kick, and not much else," Fletcher said.