Jun 8, 2018
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Meet the one English referee on the World Cup

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Meet the one English referee on the World Cup

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“I used to be by no means that good as a participant,” says Simon Lount, seen right here on the Rio Olympics in 2016

There are no British referees at the 2018 World Cup, in line with Fifa. However one official was born and raised in Leicester – till a coincidence took him to the opposite aspect of the world.

If Simon Lount hadn’t acquired misplaced 14 years in the past, he might not have discovered himself on the World Cup finals in Russia.

It was 2004 and Simon, then 23, was travelling by Australia and New Zealand.

After spending three days on the Bay of Islands, he dropped his rent automobile in Auckland and went to search out the ferry to Waiheke Island, the place he was staying.

The issue was, he could not discover the terminal. “It was the times earlier than Google maps,” he says.

It was darkish, it was late, and Simon was hundreds of miles from dwelling. After which, as evening drew in, he regarded up and noticed a girl strolling a canine.

Simon was born and raised in Thurnby, a village simply outdoors Leicester. His dad died of coronary heart failure when Simon was 9; he and his older brother, Anthony, have been introduced up by their mum.

He grew up watching soccer – as a season ticket holder at Leicester Metropolis – and taking part in it, for native aspect Houghton Rangers and in school.

“I used to be a centre again,” the 36-year-old says. “Not all the time the most well-liked with referees.”

Whereas finding out for A-Ranges, he labored part-time at Sainsbury’s. “Stacking cabinets, fish counter, meat counter, you title it. As a lot extra time as I may get.”

Can he keep in mind how a lot he earned? “I can truly,” he says. “£3.09 an hour.”

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Simon made it again for one sport of Leicester Metropolis’s against-the-odds Premier League win in 2016 – the 2-2 dwelling draw towards West Ham

Simon went to school, finding out geography at Portsmouth (whereas working part-time at Asda), however dropped out in his second 12 months. “I needed to journey, needed to begin working, needed to do different stuff,” he says.

He went dwelling, labored in gross sales and advertising and marketing along with his brother for 3 years, after which, in 2004, headed for journey Down Underneath.

After three months working for Travelodge in Sydney, he travelled spherical Australia with a good friend, then headed south to New Zealand. And that is when he acquired misplaced in Auckland.

“I noticed this lady coming in direction of me, strolling a canine,” he says. “I finished her and mentioned ‘Excuse me, have you learnt the best way to the ferry terminal?’

“She mentioned ‘It is this fashion – however you will not get the subsequent ferry. You may have to attend till 10 o’clock [for the next one].’ I believed, ‘Oh effectively, there’s nothing else I can do.’

“I walked off and thought: ‘She was very good.’ Inside a minute, she had turned up subsequent to me in her automobile – she felt actually dangerous leaving this poor, susceptible, easy English fellow strolling the streets of Auckland at nighttime!”

Earlier than being dropped off, Simon requested for her quantity. He and Sarah began courting, and have been married the next 12 months.

“I made the ferry and acquired a spouse on the identical time,” he says.

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Simon Lount

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Simon Lount, his spouse Sarah, and sons Benjamin (8) and Alexander (5)

Earlier than assembly Sarah, Simon’s plan was to go again to Sydney for Christmas 2004, then return to England.

As a substitute, he stayed in New Zealand for Christmas, and went again to England for 10 days in January. He acquired his visas, then broke the information to his mum: sorry, I am shifting to the opposite aspect of the world.

“She was fairly shocked,” he says. “However joyful on the identical time.”

Simon was already a professional referee – he did the course as a part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in England – however hadn’t refereed a senior sport. Whereas taking part in native soccer in New Zealand, Sarah urged he began once more.

He refereed 70 matches in his first 12 months, incomes $25 or $26 a time (round £13). He was observed by assessors and, by the top of that first season, was refereeing the highest division’s reserve crew video games.

In 2008, he turned a linesman – often known as an assistant referee – within the nation’s high division. After two seasons, he had a trial sport to turn out to be a referee in the identical league. He was an excellent referee, he was advised, however a greater linesman.

“No-one watches refereeing and thinks, ‘I might like to run up and down that line with a flag in my hand,'” admits Simon.

“Individuals get into refereeing to be within the center. To be a part of the sport, up shut and private, making the choices. I used to be no totally different.”

However even in 2010, Simon was fascinated with the World Cup in Russia. He had extra likelihood of constructing it as a linesman, so he made the decision – he would deal with that.

Sadly, calling offsides would not pay the payments.

In New Zealand – and nearly each different nation – referees and their assistants will not be full-time. They earn modest quantities, and should steadiness refereeing with “regular” jobs.

Since 2005, Simon has labored for Hafele, which provides furnishings fittings and architectural {hardware}. The corporate is “unbelievably supportive”, and he can work remotely. However, he says, it’s “very, very arduous” having two careers.

“You ask any referee around the globe,” he says. “For the fellows in England [Premier League referees are full-time] it’s their occupation. For me, my occupation was working for my firm.”

Simon and Sarah additionally had a rising household, with their second son born in July 2012. Six weeks earlier than, Simon was 2,000 miles away within the Solomon Islands, officiating on the Oceania equal of the European Championships.

Was he nervous about lacking the start? “It wasn’t contact and go,” he says. “Nevertheless it was attending to that stage.”

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Simon (left) along with his crew – referee Matthew Conger (centre) and assistant Tevita Makasini. The participant is Juan Sebastian Quintero Fletcher of Colombia

As Simon’s status grew, so did his air miles. After the Solomon Islands, his tournaments included the Rio Olympics in 2016, and the Underneath-20 World Cup in South Korea a 12 months later.

Simon was a part of a refereeing “crew”, alongside New Zealand referee Matthew Conger, and fellow linesman Tevita Makasini from Tonga. With the intention to construct understanding, they labored the identical matches.

In November final 12 months, Conger realized he had been chosen for the World Cup – however that did not imply his assistants have been.

Referees may be picked with their crew, or on their very own. In March, Simon was in a lodge room in New Zealand, after a piece operate, when he acquired a missed name from Conger, who was within the US (the place he’s from).

Simon checked his e-mail and noticed the information – he had earned a spot on the World Cup.

“I used to be sharing a room [with a colleague],” he says. “I simply rolled over and mentioned ‘Oh mate – I’ve acquired it! I’ve acquired it!”

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Though Simon has a British passport, and retains a semi-English accent, he’s a New Zealand citizen. “It is the place my kids have been born, it is the place my spouse’s from, it is dwelling,” he says.

And whereas New Zealand did not qualify, he would not anticipate to get any England video games, both. This, in spite of everything, is a person who remembers cheering on Paul Gascoigne and firm within the 1990 World Cup.

Simon arrived in Russia on Sunday, after a piece journey to Germany. The coaching is tough, the stress is large, however he is thrilled to be there.

“It has been an extended journey, plenty of tournaments, plenty of coaching,” he says. “However this was the last word objective.”

It is a great distance from the fish counter at Sainsbury’s, is not it? “It actually is,” he says.

How totally different it may have been, if, 14 years in the past, he had discovered the ferry terminal first time spherical.

BBC Sport – Football

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