Dreams do come true. At 18 years of age, I began to dream about someday representing the United States in the World Cup. No, not as a player, but as a referee. Twenty-two years later, on January 7, 2002, a miracle happened. Fernando Alvarez contacted me and, with excitement in his voice, congratulated me on making it to sport's world stage. Years of sweat, sleepless nights, disappointments, and personal growth were rewarded as I was chosen as one of 36 FIFA referees to work the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan.
This appointment is even more rewarding given the fact that I am the first U.S.-born referee chosen for the World Cup. Additionally, I am especially proud since I climbed the referee ladder starting with the lowest possible badge/level. What does this mean? It means that I worked my way up the youth ranks, through 8 or more levels, to become a FIFA referee.
This was not an easy journey nor did it happen overnight. It involved taking a lot of verbal abuse from uneducated parents, players, and coaches. It involved uncountable numbers of bad decisions on my part. It involved a lot of political posturing. It involved disappointments.
Was it worth it? Without a doubt, yes! The rewards have always outweighed the disappointments. Refereeing has made me a better person both in my personal life and as a people manager on the job. Refereeing has made my family proud, as well as provided me with lifelong friends.
I started refereeing as a 13-year-old in Cupertino, California. It started as a hobby - a way to make a few bucks. But, I quickly found that I enjoyed the challenge it provided more than the financial rewards. Screaming parents were a challenge to work harder and to prove them wrong. A bad decision on my part was a challenge to learn and to get it right the next time. Over time, parent's shouts were transformed into handshakes and kind words of thanks after the game.
I am extremely proud to be able to represent the U.S. at the World Cup. Without the daily efforts of all the players, coaches, referees, assessors, instructors, and administrators, I would not have had the infrastructure to make it to the world stage. American referees are fortunate that we have the opportunity to push ourselves to be the best due to the infrastructure created by our leaders and the high caliber games that challenge us each time we walk onto the field.
Over the next several weeks, I will be providing periodic journal entries detailing my World Cup dream. These will be done while I am in Japan, as I will be stationed there with half of the officials selected to officiate in World Cup 2002. I look forward to sharing my World Cup experiences with you.
Fans can send e-mails and best wishes to Brian Hall through ussoccer.com's Fan Interaction Center.
FUNdamental Reader: We are congratulating Brian on his two accomplishments. First, his appointment to becoming a FIFA referee at this World Cup. And second for receiving the National "D" license where we were honored to teach Brian about coaching youth players. Brian Hall, may you have FUN at the World Cup...!