Football - The World Game

By - Bill Van Der Vlist

In the beginning........ 1959 (10 Years young!!)


I started playing soccer when I was about 10 years old and we lived in the Canberra suburb of Narrabundah. The oval was close to our home in Seventh Street and we walked there most Sundays to watch the men play.

We also had a couple of school games when I went to Red Hill Primary School in the 60's. Had a short period playing in Narrabeen, Sydney before moving back to Canberra. Tried out as a goalkeeper but after a couple of games it was back into my favorite position on the right wing.

After Red Hill, I went to Narrabundah High School and we played social soccer there for three years but there were no school representative teams.

We also traveled to Turner oval on other weekends to watch my dad (Wim) play and eventually he started refereeing the men's league. This is where I got my initial interest in refereeing soccer. Dad's brother Marten was also a referee. They both had a great career in soccer administration, refereeing and refereed many interstate and international games.


The Next 20 Years or so...

Gave up playing soccer for a long time and concentrated on supporting our local teams in the National Soccer League. Became a member of the supporters club travelling to many games. Eventually started playing again for the Canberra City Old Boys Soccer Team. This team was made up of players from the Supporters Club and retired players from our National Team.


 The 80's and 90's

Eventually the Canberra City Soccer Club Team was relegated from the National League but the club continued to play in the local leagues and I became Treasurer of the club for a few years before becoming Senior Vice President.  Over the years the club entered teams in many of the divisions including the Premier League and has remained a prominent force in ACT Soccer.

My playing days were not like they used to be and I gave up playing altogether.  Then one day my brother Eric suggested that we should attend a soccer referee course.  So we did and become soccer referees, refereeing in the lower leagues.  Well we got more and more involved and continued to get back at all those players that gave us a hard time over the years.  No not really, but it sounded good anyway.

After many years of refereeing we went through the process of getting experience and going up in the ranks.  Eventually we both reached Class 1 status.

90's Continued... no longer 10 years young!!


1991 - AR for a match - Tuggeranong United v's New Caledonia

1991 - AR for a match - Australian Institute of Sport v's Ginnasia Esgrimade la Plata from Argentina


Referee for Canberra City v's Ginnasia Esgrimade la Plata from Argentina


My Dream Job

In 1993 I became involved with the International Kanga Cup Youth Soccer Tournament when the tournament moved from Sydney to Canberra.  Because of my experience with the Australia Affiliated Soccer Referees Federation and the Australian Soccer Referees Federation as a Referee Assignor I took on the role as Assignor for the Kanga Cup.  I continued that role for two years as the tournament started to grow.

In 1995 a vacancy came up for Soccer Administrator with the Australian Capital Territory Soccer Federation (ACTSF).  I was fortunate to be appointed and worked under manual systems for the first year.  In 1996 we upgraded to a computer system to improve all operations.  During this time due to other staff turnovers I gained experience in all areas of administration and management.  I was primarily responsible for youth soccer but was actively involved in senior soccer as well.







I retired from assigning and took on the role of Tournament Director/Manager for the Kanga Cup with the number of teams increasing to over 200.  Teams came from all over Australia and overseas including USA, Russia, England, Fiji, New Zealand, Georgia, Japan, Argentina plus many others.

1996 saw our old office at Sports House, Hackett move to modern offices at Football House, Deakin with the Australian National Women's Soccer Federation in the office next door.  Not to mention the Canberra Cosmos team in the National League here as well.  The team had several coaches over the years including Johnny Warren and Tom Sermanni.  New modern computers were provided and we entered the age of designing and operating a Federation website. 

Presentation night manual systems were replaced with a PowerPoint presentation for all league awards and player of the year.  Professional Annual Reports were designed and distributed to all clubs. 

I spent a several months preparing for the 2000 Olympics as several matches were going to take place in Canberra. This included experience gained at the FIFA Australia v.'s Bahrain World Cup Championship qualifier played at Canberra Stadium.

Every year Soccer Australia hosted the National Talent Identification Championships (NTIC) at various locations across the country.  It was our ambition to have this event in Canberra some time in the future so I was sent to the Championships in Sydney to observe.  This was great as my son David made the ACT U16 representative team and I was able to see him score a goal in one of his games.  As a defender he did very well being equal state goal scorer for the ACT.  We then submitted our application to host a National Championship in the future and were picked to host the 1999 event.  The following year I accompanied our representative teams and attended the Championships in Adelaide and gained a lot more experience. 

In 1999 I had the position as Tournament Manager for the NTIC which was held at the Australian Institute of Sport.  Reports and the venue were so good that Soccer Australia considered hosting future NTIC tournaments in the nation's capital.

During all of this I continued to referee and officiated in the Soccer Australia National Youth League (NYL) in Canberra and Sydney.  Was fortunate to have met Pele when he visited Canberra to attend an NYL game that I was an AR.  I retired from active refereeing in the NYL and became a referee assessor for local soccer and the NYL.  I remember assessing two very good young referees in the NYL Ben Wilson and Ben Williams.  They had a great future if they stuck with it, and they did.  Both made FIFA and were involved in refereeing World Cup qualifying matches in various countries. Ben Williams as a referee and Ben Wilson as an AR.  Ben Wilson also made the FIFA World Cup Finals as an AR.  Well done boys, you both deserved it.

 UPDATE July 2014

 Ben Williams made the 2014 World Cup in Brazil refereing three matches and was 4th official for another.  Well done Ben!

I can still remember lecturing the class at Kambah High School where Ben Williams was a student and saying to him and the other students "You can become a FIFA referee and get to the World Cup if you want to"  Well he did!


The Future

Definitely no longer 10 years young! 

I met Sharon in 1996 and it was all over for us being single and we were married at Diamond Head, Hawaii in May of 1997.

In May of 2000 Sharon and I left Australia moving to Humble, Texas USA.  It was my turn to experience the Texan way after Sharon had spent the last three years in Canberra enjoying the Aussie way.

Originally I tried to get back into soccer administration in the USA but there were no opportunities available at the time.  So having achieved Class 1 referee status in Australia I thought I would join the ranks in the Houston area.  But this proved difficult, as no one seemed to want to use my experience so I forgot the idea for several years.  Well my grandson wanted to play soccer so I decided to get back into refereeing.  However I was informed that I would have to take a course to become a referee again.  WOW, I used to be a Class One referee in Australia lecturing at these courses for new referees.  Anyway I did it and was a referee again then US soccer upgraded me to a State Referee and an Assessor because of my Australian qualifications.

I now referee youth recreational soccer and do Field Marshaling on Saturdays for Texas Heatwave Soccer Club.  On Sundays I referee various leagues including HFA, HWSA, TORSO and ARC.  I have taken up a role with TORSO to coach referees which is producing great results.  During the week I referee various school games and other competitions as required.

TORSO has used my experience to mentor young and some not so young referees to help them hopefully become better referees.  I have a Referee Coaching Sheet that I brought from Australia and use to report on the strengths and areas that need to be worked on to help other referees.

Now a certified Referee Assignor for STSR in the Houston area looking for any club needing a referee assignor.  Also available to assign or assist at any tournament.

Referee Coaching and mentoring is an area that I have been involved in for many years and was was extremy pleased to hear that Ben Williams is representing Australia in London as a referee in the Olympic Games.  Well done Ben, we are proud of you.  Ben has continued his career by refereeing three matches in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  Also one game as a fourth official.

Last year I was appointed as a referee coach for STSR State COED Cup where I was able to work on identifying and improving the performance of both the young and the mature referees.  It was nice to see that they listened and the improvement that resulted.  Looking forward to coaching referees for STSR, and you never know I may help get another official to achieve the ultimate by reaching the World Cup or the Olympic Games.