Let’s start with your background Jacob, it’s a long and harrowing story and it’s Refugee Week in the UK and World Refugee Day on Saturday 20 June…so it's quite apt that we’re speaking to you today.
Yes, it's been a long journey for me. There's been lots of hard times, especially with my migration status over the years, but also some very good times. That's life, but I'm very happy with the way things are now and to be living my life now. It’s been a happy ending for me really, to be living safely with my wife and young daughter.
Level of referee: Level 4
Years refereeing: Four
How did you first get into refereeing?
I remember in 2016, I had an ACL injury which I picked up playing for a local club in Liverpool and I was going to be unable to play again for a long time. I was quite down about that, but Stuart Carrington from the Liverpool CFA advised me to get started on a refereeing to see how it goes. I didn’t know then where it would lead now…
What made you decide to take up refereeing?
I always remember speaking to my dad about it, if I played football what would I do after I retire? I was always into coaching and had never thought about refereeing and when he mentioned it, I wasn’t really keen on it. But then when I did the course, I really enjoyed it and soon after that, it was when I thought that I really like refereeing better than playing.
Where did you take your first course and then where did you officiate your first game?
My first course was at the Liverpool County FA's base in Walton Hall Park in 2016 and my first game was refereeing in the Edge Hill League in Liverpool. It was an U7s game and I remember there being a lot of parents and brothers and sisters there watching. It was new for me at the time, a new environment and it was tough.
Is there one moment, good or bad, from your early experiences of officiating that springs to mind and has stayed with you ever since?
I would say, there’s been a few times when I’ve not had a good game and the teams are not happy with your decisions and the players are giving you stick. This is one of the things as a referee that you have to go through. I remember once coming home afterwards and was just sat in my room and thought I didn’t want to carry on with it. But the good thing is that I had a very supportive County FA in Liverpool and I spoke to the referee officer Dave Horlick and we had a long chat. After that, I was happy about it and thought this was one of the challenges that I have to go through and I have to learn from mistakes.
What are the main benefits or enjoyments that you take from officiating?
The main benefits for me are the promotions, because at the end of the season, you want to see yourself progressing through the levels. If I have been given the chance to referee in one of the local cup finals, it’s a big opportunity for me and it’s an opportunity that’s given to you according to how you’ve performed that season. I was added to the FA CORE (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) programme which was great for me, as you receive coaching and a mentor to help you improve as a referee and there's opportunity to referee in EFL tournaments and with professional clubs. You also get the chance to engage with other referees and top level referees, who talk to you and you gain a lot from it. For me as a person, I have more knowledge of the game and promotions from level seven to four and I’m now able to referee County Cup Finals and built great relationships with many of the clubs and coaches, so I've enjoyed it a lot.
Do you have specific ambitions to reach a certain level in the game?
Yes, I’ve always spoken to my CORE coach about my ambition to be a FIFA elite referee one day and to referee in the Premier League and how I can get there. He told me it’s a step at a time, now I’m at level four but next I want to be at level three so I will keep on working hard until I’m there and then I hope to keep going and doing what I’m doing.
Have you got a role model who you look up to, or someone who has played a part in your success as an official?
I would say I have lots, but Anthony Taylor and the Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir are the two top refs that I look up to. I’ve had the chance to meet Anthony through CORE and he’s been so supportive towards my career. And both Stuart Carrington and Dave Horlick at the Liverpool CFA have been so helpful for me across everything, not just refereeing.
What would be your advice to anyone who is thinking of starting out?
My advice would be to just go and do it, because you get to meet new people, go to different places and once you start refereeing, enjoy it. If things don’t go your way at times, that happens to every official, but you're always learning. Use those mistakes to learn and speak to your parents or County FA and they will help. When I started out, I didn’t know how it would be but it’s been brilliant.
Talk us through your last game…what happened? What was the score?
Well, it’s a few months ago now, but I still remember it well. It was in the Liverpool Old Boys’ League and it was Alumni Reserves against Old Cathinians and it was on Saturday 14 March. I remember the score was 5-2 to Old Cathinians. I enjoyed it, it was a good game and I came home happy, but unfortunately the week after we had no games. Hopefully we'll all be back playing and refereeing soon!
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