Former kickboxer Grisha Zeigermaher explains why he started refereeing
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.
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!
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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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