Football - The World Game

By Bill Van Der Vlist

About me..........

Soccer/Football or whatever you want to call it is truly "The World Game"  It brings players, officials and spectators together as one so that they can all enjoy this truly magnificent sport.

In the early days in Canberra it had the unfortunate name of "Wog Ball" but thankfully Australians worked out that they could play as well and the sport prospered with Australia making the first World Cup in 1974 I believe.  The captain of the Socceroos was Johnny Warren who I had the fortune of playing with when he retired to play with the Canberra City Old Boys in Division 6.  Yes lowly Division 6. However these old farts used their skills to make the ball do all the work and had the other young teams chasing the ball all over the park.  Well guess what, we went through the season undefeated and won the Final 4 playoffs as well.

My involvement has spanned over 50 years so far and I am not done yet!  I continue to referee and am hoping to use my experience and passion to help others no matter what area of expertise they need help with.

I started my real involvement in as a member of the Canberra City Soccer Club Supporters Club.  Our team Canberra City entered the new national competition for the inaugural season in 1977 as the only team representing the ACT. Home games were played at the newly constructed Bruce Stadium.  The club remained competitive throughout its tenure in the league, but had limited success being unable to reach the final series in any season.  The most successful seasons were in 1981 with a fifth-placed finish and in 1985 finishing sixth in the Northern Conference, missing out on the final series on goal difference to St George.  A restructure of the national league for the 1987 season saw Canberra relegated to the NSW State League.  I became friends with many of the players over the years and have great memories.  Two of our players Richard Wilson and Duncan Cole lived around the corner and we would go and cut firewood together.  Both Richard and Duncan were in the New Zealand National Team and gaining experience in Australia.

Referee Canberra's Bruce Stadium 1999

Chairman's XI v's World XI

Following the teams relegation I joined the Board of Directors as the Treasurer with the club owing a lot of money.  We entered a team in the local league and started to get our finances back in order.  After many years we repaid nearly everyone as far as I can remember and I took on the role as Senior Vice President for a few years.  Anyway we got out of debt and I left to concentrate on my own business and refereeing.  Getting sent off was not fun when I played as I always thought the referee was wrong interpreting the "Laws of the Game".  Boy was I in for a shock when I did the referees course, that referee was right and I was WRONG!!  Shows how a little bit of incorrect information can influence your mind. 

Well now that I was a real soccer referee I was determined to educate players, coaches and spectators as much as I could to understand the "Laws of the Game" and that a number of them actually do change from time to time.  I find I am still doing that today as players, sometimes do not understand. 

My refereeing was very enjoyable over the years and I took on many roles with the referee associations.  These included referee assignor and secretary of the ACT branch of the Australian Soccer Referees Federation.  These were both very challenging positions but I was determined and enjoyed them over many years.  As assignor I heard every excuse there was for a referee to get out of a game, I can assure you I was not impressed and do feel what assignors have to go through to get every game covered.

After working my way up through the ranks and gaining experience from my mistakes I eventually made Class One.. yippeeeee!  From there I became a referee inspector/assessor and enjoyed helping many a referee reach their potential.  There were a couple of standouts that made the grade and reached FIFA, which I never did.  The experience as assessor for the NYL was my best refereeing achievement in Australia.

I refereed so many finals and play off games over the years (can't remember how many but there are lots!) and have continued to do the same in the Houston area which we moved to in 2000.  I will continue to referee as long as I can.

Made three trips to Dallas, TX and refereed in the Dallas Cup, which was a great experience.  Met a lot of new friends and fellow referees from various countries. 

Sometime in 1995 I joined The ACTSF as a Soccer Administrator for the Junior League.  These were tough times as the CEO left and we were left handling day to day affairs of the federation under the guidance of the Board of Directors.  We worked through it for many months and were finally rewarded with a new CEO Robert Bennett.  Robert was a natural for the position and we formed a great working relationship and supported each other to help the ACTSF grow and become a professional organization for all players, coaches, managers and spectators to be proud of.  We changed manual tasks into computerized systems, got sponsors, and improved overall activities of the federation.  These were great times as we all learnt together and were able to grow.

I was presented with the Appreciation Award in 1997 and in 1999

And was granted the ultimate prize in 2002 "Life Membership"

 

One of my duties was to manage the Kanga Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament, which I already had been involved in for the last two years.  We were rewarded for our hard work as the the tournament continued to grow and attract teams from all over Australia and many other countries.  By the time I left for the USA it had grown from about 35 teams to over 150 teams.  The federation was happy, as this was a huge revenue source to help run the federations activities.  We received the support of local government and the Chief Minister due to the number of visitors we brought in from interstate and overseas each year.  I was responsible for designing the tournament brochures, the official program and the running of the tournament.

A tournament such as this needed volunteers and I had very good dedicated individuals that supported me without any hesitation.  It is these people that helped give me a great experience, reputation and gave me the name "Kanga Bill".

 Kanga Cup Brochure

 

 

 

The Kanga Cup has continued to attract large numbers of teams from across the country, the world and is regarded as Australia's largest and the main International Youth Soccer Tournament.  The tournament has been promoted in many countries over the years and I was sent to Blaine, Minneapolis and Indianapolis, Indiana to introduce the Kanga Cup.

Canberra was now known as a great destination for its involvement with youth and adult soccer resulting in many teams visiting the area to make new friends and to play "The World Game".

Because of my experience I spent several months preparing for the 2000 Olympics games in Australia as  I was on the match statistics team for games at Canberra Stadium.  Several Olympic Soccer matches were scheduled here and our first test was the FIFA Australia versus Bahrain World Cup Championship qualifier.  The report from FIFA was very positive and indicated a high level of satisfaction.  Before the Olympics started we moved to Humble, Texas but I sure enjoyed the experience.

 

ACT Football Federation "100 Years of Football in the ACT" Medallion awarded to all Life Members in 2010

   

Houston

The Future?

Houston or an other major city in Texas has the potential to host a major soccer event for both youth or adults whether they are male or female or even a COED tournament attracting teams from other states and other countries.  Just look at the success of the Dallas Cup or the USA Cup.  A major event such as this will not only bring in huge revenue to the city but could help fund enlarged and improved facilities.  To do this a senior club and junior club will need to unite and work on these goals together, which should include a club house, playing fields for all to enjoy.  The potential is there if you can see the light and work towards these goals to build the world game in Texas! 

Feel free to send me your thoughts on how we can improve in any area.

These days I enjoy being involved with the many small youth and adult tournaments held in the Houston area as this keeps me fit, in touch and continues to feed my passion for the "The World Game"!

Recently, I have taken a position of Referee Liaison with The Houston Aces in the WPSL and am very impressed by the management of the club.  Coaching is first class and results so far in 2013 are incredible.  Good luck ladies you are doing Houston proud.  My friendship with Tom Sermanni now the USA Women's National Coach has prompted him to make a trip here at the end of June to meet them and other youth players in Houston.  Want to know more about the Houston Aces go to their web site:  http://www.thehoustonaces.com/

Next chapter coming soon..........