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France -v- Germany
added 14th August 2009
It's a little before 6pm and it's hot, over 30 degrees centigrade. I am standing in the middle of the pitch with three stripe shirted colleagues either side. Beyond them, stretching away out of the corner of my eye, are two teams of armoured warriors.
I am standing with my white cap down by my right leg as over 7,000 spectators sing La Marseillaise. It is clear and evokes the pride of a nation and makes even the hair of a neutral prickle on the back of the neck. I think for a moment that I will have to write about the feeling and atmosphere but that thought is quickly pushed away as I know I can only think about what I see and how I react for the next 2 hours.
Three Germans, three French and me an Englishman are in charge of controlling nearly 100 American Football players. This is a 'friendship' game between two of the stronger teams in Europe. It is debatable if there can really be a friendly between France and Germany and so I have done my best to prepare myself and my officiating crew for this match.
My day started early. I had to be at the airport for a 6.30am flight from London to Lyon. The game is in Valence and I am told it is about 100km south of the city which is the home of the Olympique Lyonnais football club. Even at the airport it is clear the round ball game is king here with shops and restaurants dedicated to selling memorabilia to the team that did the French League and cup double in 2008.
There have been a few problems with my lift from the airport to Valence but I am told nothing to worry about someone is on their way. It might be an hour or so before they arrive. I have a book and I have my notes so I spend the time reading and thinking football.
I get a call saying my lift has arrived and I wander to the other end of the airport looking for it. After a couple of trips up and down terminal 2 without success I see a staircase going down that I have passed three times. A the bottom I find two men holding a poster for the game. Smiling and shaking hands I am lead to the car and we set off.
The journey seems to take in much more than 100km but I am treated to a drive through the foothills of the French Alps and pass the time watching the names of towns appear and disappear off road signs, Geneva, Grenoble, Marseilles before finally seeing one for Valence. I find out the next day that traffic jams on he most direct route have seen me taken on a detour that should save queuing. The return journey was much quicker.
Arriving at the Stadium Pompidou I am met by the three French officials and we head over to the hotel across the road where our German contingent is waiting. After a short while checking into rooms and getting rid of cases we get together and begin our pre-game. We have some game film to watch and we end up back at the stadium sitting outside eating a meal prepared for the teams and discussing some rules questions and talking mechanics.
We change and together with the umpire I visit the coaches. No special plays are reported and everyone I need to know about is right handed and footed. There is a slight worry when I am told there will be no coin toss but it turns out that was a misunderstanding and everything is set for the game.
Having spent much of the pre-game pacing, a habit I have picked up to dispel nervous energy, together with the crew I head out onto the field at 5.45 pm. The teams follow us out a short while later and line up on either side. The national anthems are played and the coin toss does take place but only after the Mayor of Valence has staged a ceremonial kick off.
The game starts with a flurry of scoring. France take their first drive back for a touchdown and kick the point after. Germany return the next kick off back for a touchdown without needing the offence on the field. They miss their PAT and so trail 6-7. France again march down the field to extend their lead to 14-6 before Germany get their first offensive score to leave the home team ahead 14-13. From there on it becomes Germany's game. They score 28 unanswered points before the French rally to score again. Even after that the visitors have a chance to put 7 more points on the board to finish 49-21 winners.
From the officiating perspective we do fine. There are a few small things we can work on but we get some tight calls correct and the stuff we do not do so well has no influence on the outcome of the game.
Hot but satisfied we return to our changing room and look at the medals we have each received as a reminder of a job well done.
Highlights of the 1st half can be seen at
2nd half highlights are at
1st July 2009
I have completed my EFAF Games now.
I started with the short trip to Aldershot for the Farnham Knights against the Amsterdam Crusaders (6-8) and then had another cracker two weeks later in Paris where the Flash beat the Berlin Adler (21-14) with a touchdown 9 seconds from the end.
Last weekend (16/17th May) I was in Serbia working Vrbas Hunters against Pomorze Seahawks and then Klek Knights against Gyor Sharks. Two close games with the Seahawks mounting a 14 point rally in the last 4 minutes before failing to recover an onside kick to lose by 7 points (21-14). The Knights were one score down and driving late in the game when an intercepted pass was returned to give Gyor a two score lead and a final result of 40-24.
I did take a small video clip of the ground at Vrbas and it can be viewed here
Finaly I was lucky enough to be assigned to the EFAF Cup final between Thonon Black Panthers and Prague Pathers in the Czech Republic on the 4th July.
You can watch the 1st and 2nd Quarters of the game and the 3rd and 4th Quarters by clicking on the part you want to view.