Field session held at Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton.

CARD program returns to Edmonton after the pandemic

With the crucial support of Edmonton Minor Soccer Association, young referees are receiving valuable training in different aspects of the game. Join us in learning more about this fantastic program.

This year, young referees are getting a great opportunity to develop and expand their knowledge thanks to the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (EMSA), which is funding the Centre for Advanced Referee Development (CARD) program, a course directed at promising officials who show interest in pursuing a career in refereeing.

According to Dragos Niculescu, General Manager of EMSA, “every year technical people from EMSA select young referees to enroll them in this year-long program, where they will be trained in the laws of the game, fitness, tactical solutions, among other aspects”.

But EMSA’s assistance is not only limited to funding. They also support the program by providing locations to do field sessions, a crucial part of the course. So far, venues such as Commonwealth Stadium and Clarke Stadium have been used for CARD’s purposes.

A session inside one of Clark Stadium’s dressing rooms.

A key person in this project is Mazzen Black, Manager of the CARD program. In his vision, the program will help several Edmonton referees continue their growth. “This program was born a while ago when former FIFA referee Dave Gantar (Edmonton) and current FIFA referee Drew Fischer (Calgary) decided to create a plan to unify the development of referees within the province”. Besides Dave Gantar, former FIFA referee Sheena Dickson has helped teach the young officials, something that Dragos Niculescu values immensely. “For these young people, to learn from top-level referees is a great opportunity”, he added.
The program started in Edmonton in 2019, but had to be put in stand-by due to COVID. According to Mazzen Black, this didn’t discourage a lot of officials, as 8/12 came back for year 2. In his words, “CARD students meet once a week for two hours, where they have field and education sessions. There are four different levels, all of which have different requirements”.

CARD students. Mazzen Black can be seen in the far-right corner of the picture.

When asked about how they recruit officials for the program, Mazzen Black confirmed that “these referees are out of entry-level programs. For the most part, assignors from their Associations will put names forward, and we will go from there”. According to him, this is an excellent opportunity for referees who aspire to get to the next level in soccer. “If a referee ends up graduating, they can become a part of Canada Soccer National List of Officials“.

Edmonton Minor Soccer Association has played a pivotal role in the delivery of this program, something that Mazzen Black recognizes and appreciates. “We have to thank EMSA for being the main sponsor of the CARD program. Without their help, this initiative would not be possible”, he concluded.