Last week saw some of our fine Middlesex FA referees get the call up to officiate on the hallowed turf of Wembley and take charge of some matches as part of The Football Association’s unique ‘Play on the Pitch’ experience.
On a frosty December evening, both Middlesex-based Sobastian Frazer and Ali Matour were selected to officiate a number of internal Wembley staff fixtures as The Football Association opened up its doors to a number of ballot winners who got to play out their dreams by taking part in a match at the home of football.
Following the Lionesses UEFA Nations League fixture vs The Netherlands on Friday 1st December and with no more competitive matches due in 2023, The FA has allowed selected groups to host fixtures at the iconic stadium including England Supporters Travel Club, Community Champions, Competition Winners and ballot winning staff members across the unsung heroes who keep Wembley working throughout the year from catering staff to security teams.
Such an incredible opportunity extended to the match officials too so the honour on this evening fell to Seb and Ali who are two of the most popular and talented referees in the county.
Seb has been officiating for 8 years and is currently a Level 4 referee who operates on both the Combined Countries Football League, the Isthmian and Southern League. Having cut his teeth in the ever popular Middlesex County Football League and the Greater London Women’s League, his promotion through the ranks made him the ideal candidate to take the whistle for this prestigious occasion having also been the man in the middle for last season’s MFA Intermediate Cup Final hosted at nearby North Greenford United FC as well.
When asked about his thoughts on the evening, Seb reflected: “It’s both surreal and exciting, the acoustics of the stadium are breath-taking. I was stunned, imagining a packed stadium of 90,000 but still being able to hear everything on the ground. I had a sense of nervousness knowing that I was walking out onto the home of football, although not quite at the grand stage of an FA Cup final, it still held the high esteem of being able to afford such an opportunity.”
It should be added that despite the matches being ‘friendly’, Seb made sure the laws of the game were upheld and awarded 3 penalties and several cards - which the players received with big smiles as a great story to tell their friends and families!
Ali’s own journey to Wembley started as a young boy in Iran who one day dreamt of visiting the Home of Football just to see the legendary stadium – so to get the chance to actually run out on the storied turf was extra special for him.
Ali picks up the story: “When I received the invitation to join the team of match officials at Wembley, I could hardly believe it. Walking out to my favourite Champions League anthem (Wembley will host the 2024 Champions League Final on Saturday 1st June 2024) is something I will never forget and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
Having also refereed in the Middlesex County Football League as well as the Combined Counties Football League, Ali is also on the Women’s Pathway promotion scheme this year going from 4w – 3w so is in regular contact with the MFA referee department and is proud to help young referees starting on their own journey.
Speaking about supporting new referees, Ali proudly said: “I recently introduced a 15 year old Ukrainian lad to the refereeing course having been asked at my local gym by his mother around how her son could get started. Working with Sophie Dennington (MFA’s Referee Development Officer) we got him signed up to a course at Matthew Arnold School and he is now working his way up the ladder, which is great to see!”
Ali is also working on a book to capture his journey from Iran to England with refereeing being at the heart of his falling in love with the game even further, so no doubt this Wembley experience will make for a compelling chapter.
So at the end of a chilly night, all involved had enjoyed their big moment underneath the famous arch and grateful for such a unique experience – one richly earned by our MFA officials as reward for all their hours and years of dedication refereeing matches all around the county. Whilst it may be back to more usual duty at the weekend, they hope that events like this can inspire more of those considering taking up the whistle to sign up to a course near them soon and start their own journey to Wembley.
Seb ends with these wise words: “Being a referee is so much more than knowing the laws of the game. It is about people management and being able to adapt accordingly to situations that happen in front of you. Becoming a referee was definitely one of my best choices in life as it has provided so many lessons that have extended off the field of play, supported my abundant growth in both confidence and professionalism.”
We couldn’t agree more - for more information on refereeing, click here:
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