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Published 26 January 2022 5 min read

Former kickboxer Grisha Zeigermaher explains why he started refereeing

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Grisha Zeigermaher

Grisha Zeigermaher explains his refereeing journey after swapping kickboxing in Turkey for refereeing in England

My name is Grisha Zeigermaher and I am 21 years old. I am originally from Latvia and before moving to England, I lived in Turkey for 11 years. I moved to London to study for a Sports Management degree at St Mary’s University in Twickenham where I am a second-year student now.

I used to be a professional kickboxer who would compete internationally for my national team but then I got injured. Just before I got injured, I got a job with UEFA so after a few months, I realised there were good opportunities within football and decided I wanted to become a referee after talking to UEFA referee observer Fritz Stuchlik. 

This was back in Turkey so I contacted my friends and colleagues within the Turkish Football Federation and they helped me. I finished the course and I officiated three youth games in Turkey before I moved to the UK in August 2020, when I started refereeing more regularly. 

In the beginning refereeing was really tough, with the pressure coming from the players, because I jumped straight into adult football. I do youth football sometimes, but I wanted to jump straight into the adult game. It was really hard at the beginning but I knew if I didn’t give up and kept going then I would get better and get used to it and now I am really enjoying it. Sometimes I still feel the pressure but generally I enjoy refereeing and love being able to make decisions and being in the middle.

I also like the fitness side of refereeing. When I go to the gym, it gives me motivation to work hard for the special refereeing goals I have. It is also a great school of life and you have to be able to give decisions which are unpopular and have to face those challenges. 

Grisha Zeigermaher works for UEFA while studying at St Mary's University
Grisha Zeigermaher works for UEFA while studying at St Mary's University

I played football as a kid but not at a particularly great level and I prioritised my other sport of kickboxing. I did kickboxing when I was 11 and then I stopped for a while before doing it again for five or six years. But I was knocked out and I needed to have two surgeries on a broken jaw. Thankfully I was working for UEFA at the time and I saw that football would be a great place to work so I started to pursue my job at UEFA and refereeing.

I am a venue data coordinator at UEFA, where I regularly cover Europa League games, Nations League, Women’s Champions League, World Cup Qualifiers and other European competitions.

During Covid, just after I completed the referee course, I worked hard on my refereeing, studied the Laws of the Game and watched clips, but when I moved to the UK in August 2020, even though I was prepared, it is different studying compared to being in the middle refereeing. It was tough but I didn’t give up and with time you get all the great things which come with refereeing.

My first match in the UK was on 5 September 2020 so I had only moved here two weeks earlier but I had contacted the workforce development officer Daniel May at Middlesex FA before I moved so I could start as soon as I arrived. I jumped straight into adult football and my first matches were awful. It was my 20th birthday when it was my third match in the UK in September 2020 and I have never received so much pressure in my life!

17 Nov 2021 0:42

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My English was not great at that point but you have to learn basic refereeing phrases, get used to all the communication and it is just about experience. At this stage I do not really receive any aggression or excessive protests because I know how to communicate with players affectively. I know how to speak effectively to the captains and coaches now. Plus in that game, I was awful to be honest!

In terms of my goals, I don’t want to say I would like to referee a World Cup final or something like that but if my injury gets better, then I would like to achieve as much as I can. But you never know what will happen because there are a lot of referees. I will just do my best and see what happens.

I have already introduced one guy in my building to refereeing and I would highly recommend it. I think some people are reluctant to do the refereeing courses because of the abuse but I do think players are better than people think.

It also develops great personal skills, it is a great school of life, it makes you better as a person and it is just really enjoyable, so I would recommend it to everyone.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been helping me in refereeing.

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