When we think about the top Canadian referees in history, Dave Gantar’s name has to come up. The Edmonton native retired last year after a successful career that took him to the highest levels in soccer. Here is a compilation of some of his most treasured stories.

“It was in Calgary, back in the A-League days. I remember I wasn’t ready for it, I was so nervous! It was not a healthy kind of stress. I was chugging Gatorade the night before… going to the washroom all night… it made no sense!”

“Context: 2011 Gold Cup game. I was at the hotel lobby, 4 hours prior to kickoff, working. I love to work, it keeps my mind busy. My bosses come to me and they are like “what are you doing?”. I told them I was still preparing mentally, and had a great game after.”   

“A few years back, we were assigned to referee a World Cup Qualifier in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Canadian officials go there quite often because we speak at least some French. We get there 2 days in advance of the game and one of the things we always do is “google” the timezone to ensure we are on time.
Referee crews leave for games so they arrive at the stadium 2 hours prior to kickoff, so most trips depart 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to the start of the match. Most -if not all- referees, eat lunch, take a nap, wake up, shower and then head down to leave for the field. For this game, I got a call in my room in the middle of my nap from the Match Commissioner asking where we were – the car was waiting and that we were all late. I looked at the clock and said “there is no way – we still have an hour before departure” – he let me know I was wrong and I had better get the crew to the lobby immediately. I still did not believe him so I called the front desk but they confirmed that the Match Commissioner was correct. I got everyone up and we made a mad scramble to get ready and get to the lobby.
Looking back, for almost 2 full days we were late for everything: lunches, dinners, field inspection, etc., and everyone was just too polite to tell us that we were late. Apparently Google had the timezone wrong on this trip!”

“For us referees, games mean a different kind of entertainment. The game I enjoyed the most was Brazil vs Colombia back in 2014, right after the World Cup.
I remember being in the tunnel before the game, and the Brazilian team wouldn’t come out for the walkout. The organizers approached us and asked us to go get them. Another Assistant Referee went to their dressing room, started banging at the door and eventually went in. Brazilians were in the middle of their prayers… that didn’t end well (laughs).
The game itself was so fun. With a packed Sun Life Stadium in Miami – half Brazilians, half Colombians – there was no quiet. Colombian players were still going after Neymar.”

“We were on our way to a CONCACAF Champions League match in Panama City, Panama, when our driver got into an accident. We stood around for awhile and then finally understood that we were going nowhere in this vehicle, so we waived down a taxi, all 5 of us piled in and we managed to get to the stadium about 30 minutes prior to kickoff – only an hour and a half later than expected.”

“Sebastian Giovinco – no question. David Beckham was amazing, as were Steven Gerrard, or Frank Lampard. But Giovinco was different. Just being on the field with him was fun. Really enjoyable to watch.”

“In 2009, I refereed an exhibition match between the National Team from Syria and the Montreal Impact. The game was fairly uneventful but shortly afterwards, a “Ban Dave Gantar from Refereeing” Facebook page popped up that seemed to have been started in Syria – apparently it received a lot of supporters!

In 2015, a fellow MLS referee was travelling on a bus in Romania when they started singing a very unflattering song, and he thought they were using my name. He asked someone and what he basically picked up -through some broken English- is that it was about me, that they did not like me but he could not figure out why.  The funny part is that I have never refereed a Romanian team, National or otherwise!”

“If I look back at some of my worst performances as a referee, I walked off the field and all the players and coaches thought I was wonderful. And on the flip side, there were games where I walked off and everybody hated me, and from a referee standpoint, I had done a great job.”

“I was in San Jose, California, for my second last MLS game and walking out for warm up, I swear I heard my name being called out but I have learned that it is never your name or it is not someone that wants to say something nice to you. During the walk out, half time -in and out-, and then at the end of the game, I heard the same thing but never looked over. An hour after the final whistle, after completing our game reports, taking a shower and walking out, I was approached by a security guard who told me there was someone there that wanted to see me. Let me put this in context: no one ever sticks around to see referees after games. Even our families typically leave and go to a restaurant where we will join up with them later. I walk over and there is a 12-year-old boy standing with his dad, and they explain to me that they drove 3 hours from their home to get to the game, that they arrived 2 hours before kickoff and had been calling out to try and get my attention each time I walked past because his son was a huge fan of me. We chatted for awhile, took some photos and parted ways. That was the most humbling experience of my referee career.”

“I’m a hardcore Canada fan. I went to Costa Rica because I thought the Men’s Team were going to qualify there. I even flew to the 2000 Gold Cup Final. My brother and I made a bet, that if Canada made it to the final, we both said we would go. We were on a plane the next morning and finally found a way to get there.
I’m not quiet as a fan. People shouldn’t sit near me! (laughs)

“I was refereeing my first ever playoff match between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Minnesota Thunder in the A-League. It was not easy and I was not at my best… a bad combination. I cautioned a player during a mass confrontation and, for some reason, mixed up where I put my cards in my pockets. Steve Kindel – we laugh about this when we see each other – commits a tackle that is 100% a yellow card and I pull out a red. The crowd goes nuts! I have been in stadiums with 100,000 people and those 6,000 or so fans made more noise than anything else I have experienced! I still remember looking up, realizing my error and then correcting it… I did not receive a cheer after correcting it.”

“Earlier in my professional career, I would be sent to referee the Whitecaps at Swanguard Stadium on a fairly regular occasion. The Southsiders – still the Whitecaps supporters group – occupied the beer gardens which were right behind the net. In one not so exciting game, I started hearing loud cheering when we were on the opposite side of the field. For a referee, the crowd reacting could be a clue that something happened behind play so we usually glance over, but there was nothing there. Even the players started getting distracted and wondering what was going on. Well, the Southsiders had decided that throwing beer cups through the net counted as a goal. It was apparently not that easy to do, so every time one of them got one in they would all cheer. Security attempted to sort it out but this persisted for more than a few other games I was there.”

“Every team has a mix of personalities. Holding midfielders are there to whack-and-hack, and they usually have stronger personalities. Goalkeepers, on the other hand, are typically the most pleasant people on the planet to deal with. However, sometimes that can change from game to game.”

An Invitation to a Referee Finale

For many of the right reasons, Dave Gantar has decided to retire from refereeing soccer after 34 years.

In November of 2021, Dave refereed the final of the Canadian Championship but has consistently said that he wants to referee his last game in Edmonton on the field that he refereed his first game.

You are cordially invited to watch a very competitive U-9 match which will be played at 1pm on June 4, 2022 at John Barnett School – 14840 72 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5C 3E5.

This is your last chance to see Dave referee and to: heckle, yell at, cheer or wonder what Dave is calling!

No RSVP is required to attend this match and all are welcome.