Simons gets Fifa badge
Tashun Simons has become the first Bermudian football official in more than a decade to be named on the Fifa International Referees List.
Simons has joined an elite group of local whistleblowers — including Charlie Marshall, Lyndon Raynor, Anthony Mouchette, Cal Simons and Stuart Crockwell — after receiving his Fifa assistant referee badge.
Like the majority of his refereeing calls, Simons’s decision to ditch his scoring boots and take up the whistle three years ago has proven to be the correct one.
The 23-year-old is the first to admit that he feels far more at home as the “man in the middle” than he ever did as a not-so-deadly striker for Young Men’s Social Club. He now aims to continue the journey he started at Police Field in a First Division match between Devonshire Colts and Boulevard in 2014 by representing Bermuda on the international stage.
“I remember a [Social Club] game when I was on the bench — probably the only time I was during my whole time there — and I got upset by a call the referee had made,” Simons recalled.
“Troy Lewis, the coach, told me to sit down and that maybe I could become a referee. I was like, ‘Troy, I ain’t no referee, I’m a top striker! I then had a conversation with my godpa [Crenstant Williams, the BFA second vice-present and chairman of the Bermuda Referees Association] and things went from there.
“Every time I put this badge on, I’m going to show everybody why I’m an assistant referee for Fifa.”
An emotional Simons struggled to fight back the tears when handed his Fifa badge by Mark Wade, the Bermuda Football Association president, at a special presentation at the Clyde Best Centre of Excellence yesterday. Also in attendance were Marshall, Raynor and Mouchette, along with several of the island’s top referees such as Martin Wyer, Anthony Francis and Lionel Cann.
“I always talk to Lyndon, we have a friendship now, and we always go and watch games and analyse referees,” Simons said. “Any time I saw Mouchette when he was refereeing he always gave me words of encouragement. All of the old referees and all of the new referees, they have all helped me.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of hours at the BFA, a lot of hours doing courses, and a lot of hours in the gym. But it’s all been worth it. Now I have work even harder to stay on the list.”
Aside from demonstrating accurate decision-making at the Concacaf Boys’ Under-15 Championships in Bradenton, Florida, last summer, Simons had to pass a stringent fitness test to obtain his badge.
Those nominated for the list were required to complete a series of 30-metre sprints and an interval test including 75-metre dashes and two 12½ metres recovery walks. Meeting the physical demands proved trickier than interpreting the Laws of the Game for Simons, described by his godfather Williams as a striker “who didn’t like to get dirty or run too much”.
Simons said: “I told Antoine Augustus [a fellow referee] that there’s no way I can fail this test. Augustus was like, ‘We’re going to run this test and we’re not going to stop until we puke!”
“This first five laps I was like, ‘I can make it’. By lap seven, I was like, ‘I don’t know about this one. After I finished I broke down crying because I knew after getting a great report from the [under-15] tournament I had a great chance of making it.”
Simons, who will be eligible for his full referee badge when he turns 25, aims to follow in the footsteps of his idols Pierluigi Collina and Howard Webb by taking the centre circle at a World Cup.
“My first goal is to do a Concacaf Champions League game and then push on for the Gold Cup,” Simons added. “Ultimately I want to do the World Cup. I don’t know what my first assignment will be, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Marshall, Bermuda’s longest-serving Fifa referee, encouraged Simons to continue challenging himself and to not let the constant scrutiny and verbal abuse that comes with the territory affect his judgment.
“You are a role model now and a leader, but never forgot to ask for advice,” Marshall said. “Everybody in this room is here to help you and never think you know it all.
“Don’t be discouraged by the remarks, the threats and all of that. That’s all part of building your character ... Congratulations to the BFA for raising such a fine young fellow.”
Marshall credits becoming an referee for helping him grow in all aspects of his adult life.
“Refereeing will help you deal with situations that you thought you would never be able to — hostility, crowds, emotions and how to deal with human beings, which is the most important thing.”’
Cann, the BRA president, described Simons as the new poster boy for local referees. “We look forward to great things from you and we know you will make us proud,” Cann said.
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