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Jamaican' their way to the CUP

07/16/2011, 2:44pm CDT
By Karly Wallack

Each year Schwan's USA Cup attracts thousands of soccer enthusiasts from around the world, and for teams and referees making the trip to the United States can be no small feat. For the Jamaican referees, months of collaboration and planning are put into making a successful trip, but the hassle seems to be worth it all once they've finally arrived.

Jamaican referees get together for a photo. A total of 16 Jamaicans made the trip to the USA CUP to referee this year.

Planning the trip to the U.S. requires countless hours of time and coordination for the Jamaicans, and at the center of all the effort is referee Keble Williams. Williams has been refereeing for almost seven years and is now a FIFA assistant referee. This will be his fifth consecutive year at the USA CUP and his second year of coordinating the trip to Blaine, Minnesota.

"We came here for the first time in 2007," said Williams. "A Jamaican who was a naturalized citizen of the U.S and a referee came down to Jamaica and said that it would be good for a group of us to come over and check it out."

Ten Jamaican referees took the advice to heart and came to Minnesota to take part in the USA CUP for the first time. Since then, Jamaican referees have been returning to participate every year. A total of 16 Jamaican referees came to participate in the 2011 USA CUP with three of them being new to the tournament.

"We really don't decide which referees are coming to the tournament. Basically, people hear about the opportunity and express interest. We try to get as many people to come as possible because it's our low season back home right now for refereeing," Williams said.

Referees from throughout Jamaica choose to participate in the USA CUP. This year's list includes several current and former FIFA referees who seized the opportunity to ref the tournament. Being able to represent their home country is exciting for these guests even if they aren't all from the same area.

"Jamaica is an island of many different sections. We have different groups of referees, but they are all linked to one main group," said Williams. "This year we have brought referees from KSAFA and the Eastern, Western and South-central Confederations, but ultimately we are all one group from Jamaica, representing Jamaica."

The planning of the tournament requires a multitude of decisions and the synchronization of ideas. Referees from all over Jamaica have an interest in taking part in the USA CUP, and it's Williams' job to make sure they're all on the same page.

"Planning? That's a headache," said a laughing Williams. "Its hard to coordinate with different people from different areas. Some of the refs are not readily available so you have to do it all by phone and try to organize how and when to get here," Williams said.

So what exactly makes all of the effort worth it? For the Jamaicans it's the combination of the whole experience. The variety of teams and styles of play add to the excitement of the trip and challenge the referees to perform at their top level. Getting the chance to referee with people from across the country allows them to learn from each other. It's fun for the referees to be able to sit down and exchange stories of their own experiences in the game of soccer.

"The USA CUP brings a mixture of culture, camaraderie, friendships," said Williams. "It's always good for the Jamaican referees to come and experience it for themselves. I'll continue to come here for as long as I can afford it." 

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Tag(s): July 16, 2011