International Cup Journal

Report 1 : August 6 - August 7

Report 2 : August 8 - August 9

Report 3 : August 9 - August 11

Report 4 : August 12 - August 14

Report 5 : August 15 - August 18

Report 5 : August 19 - August 21

Report 6 : August 22 - August 23

Report 7 : August 24 - August 25

Australia 2002 International Cup, Report #1 Jeffrey Persson

Monday 08/06/02

Greetings from Down Under! I will be sending reports in every few days to let everyone know how things are going here with the US Revolution and their quest for glory at the 2002 International Cup here in Melbourne, Australia. Of course my slant will include my sojourn as the 2002 USAFL Scholarship Umpire as well as being a Revo team supporter (waterboy, runner, etc.)

The adventure begins on Friday when my ticket for Australia does not arrive on time. Turns out that DHL misrouted it to New York. Luckily they reroute to Kansas City where I am doing one final tune up match to hone my umpiring skills before heading over to the home of Aussie Rule: Melbourne.

Saturday starts somewhat auspiciously as my ticket is now in Nashville, DHLs' rerouting having not taken effect. Amber at DHL is now working feverishly to reroute it to the Qantas ticket counter in LA tonight so that I will actually be able to get on the plane. The fact that DHL does not fly on Saturdays complicates her dilemma.

Meanwhile, the most important MAAFL game of the year is about to get underway in 100 degree heat. KC sits atop the ladder with Nashville one win behind. This will be a tough, gruelling match for sure. Both sides take turns pounding the goals and each other. The Power, living up to their name and reputation they have earned this year, give Nasvhille everything they can handle and more, but by the end of the match, the bench strength and discipline of the Kangaroos prove too much and the Roos are victorious 14-9-93 to 10-3-63. I sure wish I could have played in this epic battle, but without an umpire, the match would not have been possible.

Now it is off to the airport to head to LA and hope for the best. I get to LA in good shape (on time and no lost bags). After an hour wait in the Qantas line, I find out the package has not arrived. A quick call to DHL reveals who signed for it at the counter. Back at the counter, package in hand, I get my ticket at 10:55 pm. With the flight at 11:40 pm, I only have time to grab my boarding pass, head through security, straight to the gate, and straight on the plane with only a few folks following me before they close the door. Now, that's a bit too close for comfort.

Speaking of comfort, the coach seats are not all that bad. After five movies and two meals, not to mention 15 hours, I arrive in Melbourne, and the real adventure begins. When I clear immigration, they ask the purpose of my visit. Upon finding that I am part of the US delegation for the International Cup, a lively discussion of which AFL team is my favorite ensues.

Andrew Boyle, the USAFL Umpires Coach, has arranged for me to train with the Eastern Football League and the Dandenong Juniors as well as umpire several games for these leagues. He family has graciously agreed to host me for the first week until the rest of the Revo arrives. We spend the first day getting the minor details sorted (money exchange, driving tour of Melbourne and Dandenong, etc.) and a driving tour of Melbourne to help me get oriented.

Training will be Monday through Thursday nights with matches Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I have heard that footy is a religion here, and now I get to experience it first hand. There is literally a pitch on every corner. I marvel and the though of having permanent goal post for us back in Nashville! Tonight I trained with the EFL umpires. Despite the 10 degree Celcius temperature and the driving wind, we run sprints for an hour or so and then have a short kick. I knew I was being "tested" so I surprised everyone with a few accurate lefts, unannounced!

After a wonderful home-cooked meal, I head off to sleep, for the first time in two days.

Tuesday 8/7/02

Today is sight seeing. Andrew and I head to the CBD (Central Business District) for a tour of AFL House at Colonial Stadium. Adrian Panozzo and Rowan Sawers are there to greet us and show us around AFL House. Seeing all the Premiership posters, and historical artifacts is quite stunning. Everyone is excited for us to be visiting and wishes us well in the Cup. Even better, we get to go to a number of games as well as go down into the rooms, pre-game, to visit with the umpires (either at Colonial or the MCG, whichever they can arrange). In addition, we will get a chance to work out with the AFL umpires next Wednesday! More on that later, for sure.

We stroll the CBD and Crown Plaza (which covers more than two square blocks, and fronts the Yarra River. Inside are three floors of casino games that attract people from all over Australia. It is kind of a mini Las Vegas rolled into one building. The public transit is quite good as well, with a free tram line running most places. I know this might sound trite, but I had dim sum for lunch. First time in more than a year I have found a restaurant that serves it. Evidently there is a high concentration of Chinese and other Asians in Melbourne, which bodes well for my palate!

Time to head off to training with Dandenong. It is towards the end of the season, so Monday/Tuesday trainings are "easy". Tonight, the weather has held off beautifully until training when it pours for about a half hour. Luckly, it blows past just as we get started. But tonight is easy, we play soccer after doing our warmups. Of course four on four means a lot of running, which is the purpose, so we still get a good sweat worked up. The most amazing thing is seeing an umpires association with a history, club house, life membership plaques, etc. All this, just for the umpires!

On TV tonight is the Australia IQ2000 show. It pits a number of groups against each other (Kiwis, Teachers, Students, Builders, Blondes, Twins, and Celebrities) and the rest of Australia. I struggle with the Australia-specific questions, but do OK otherwise. The teachers come out on top, which should put the US on notice! Although the Students end up third, behind the Celebs which goes to show you that learning is a two way street! The Blondes do not end up last, but only barely so!

Well, that all for now. I hope everyone is doing well back home enjoying the week off of training while I step up to four nights of training! The Revo gets here Saturday, and then the fun really begins. I'll send another report in a few days. Meanwhile....


Cheers from Australia

Australia 2002 International Cup, Report #2 Jeffrey Persson

Wednesday 8/07/02

Started the day nicely with a drive to the Yarra Valley east of Melbourne through the suburbs and into more mountainous areas. There are quite a few wineries on this path and the road signs actually have two symbols not found in the US: one for wineries where you can purchase wines (a wine bottle, gee, surprise) and another for wine tasting (a wine glass, and no I am not kidding!)

But today is not for wine tasting. Today, the objective is the Healesville Sanctuary. This is quite similar to Kentucky Down Under in that is specializes in Australian native flora and fauna. Although KDU does not have as many animals, KDU does have sheep and sheep-herding demos that Healesville does not.

Animals that I now have seen live for the first time include the Tasmanian Devil, the echidna, and the platypus. At 10-12 inches in length, the platypus is much smaller than I thought, although fortunately they were quite active. Unfortunately, though, the lyrebirds were sequestered for mating season.

The weather today lived up to the "Four-Seasons-in-Day" reputation. We had sunny and mild, overcast, downpours, and cold and windy. If you don't like it at the moment, just wait a few minutes! The rain storms (three of them) move in quickly, dropped their payloads, and left just as quickly.

After spending most of the day wandering around the exhibits, and having a pie and sauce for lunch, we took a drive through the Yarra Ranges National Park to see the rain forest habitat, replete with ferns of all kinds. The Melbourne area has quite a few microclimates and the vegetation patterns follow suit. The Maroondah Reservoir (man-made) is one of the primary freshwater sources for Melbourne, and a large part of the surrounding watershed is restricted to traffic to keep the water clean.

Apparently, The Healesville Great Australian Ice Creamery has some of the best ice cream on the planet (just ask them!) So we stop to test the rumor on the way back to training. I have to admit, the ice cream is quite tasty!

Back at the Eastern Football League training, Wednesday is the "hard" night, and most umpires show up... about 80 of them! Half are juniors and half seniors (18 is the dividing age). Sprints are the order of the day, and lots of them. That and backwards running. No one touches a ball once we start or until we finish. After about 45 minutes of this, we head back to the locker room / club house for meetings.

Meetings consist of reviewing pointers from last weekend's games, special announcements (such as yours truly visiting from the US), video review of proper umpiring techniques, and game assignments for the coming weekend. Given that there are more umpires at both the junior and senior sessions than most US clubs have players, meetings are quite lively and, most importantly for me, extremely insightful.

I get to meet Kevin Smith who is in charge of this group and has been umpiring since the invention of the game. Well not quite, but he is highly respected as an umpire and a teacher which is why he agreed to provide this opportunity to me as the scholarship recipient. Everyone has been extremely friendly and curious about the state of the game in the US. They marvel that we drive 4 hours to play a "close" team and fly for a weekend to the farther teams: "That takes dedication!" one commented. For sure.

Thursday 8/8/02

Today (US time) the Revolution begins gathering in LA. Soon the Cup will start. Meanwhile, it's time to take in a bit of history. Trains used to be the primary transport method about 100 years ago. Some of the train lines are used for commercial purposes still, and there is one here in Melbourne that is now a tourist attraction.

With the line recently expanded back to its full length, from Belgrave to Gembrook, and having celebrated its 100th birthday on December 18, 2000, the Puffing Billy is still chugging along. Thinking of the similarity to Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon", I checked, and 'Billy' is not a colloquialism for cigarattes, or any smokable substance. Its appeal is that the locals all wave vigorously as it chugs by. Parents will put their kids on the train and then drive ahead, park, and wave at their kids at every point the train crosses a road. Obviously, this is not designed for the rush hour commute. It does however provide a leisurely way to see a large amount of the Dandenong Ranges and many photo opportunities.

The trip takes most of the day so, again, it is time to head off to training. Thursday is Dandenong's "hard" day, and again most everyone shows up. Dandenong is only juniors, but any club in the US would kill to have this many players. There is a significant female contingent in this group, and they are equally qualified and enthusiastic.

Of course I am more than twice as old as most of these kids, so I take it easy on them! We run sprint after sprint after sprint, forwards and backwards, for about 45 minutes, then finish with a nice game of Duck, Duck, Goose, which is more sprinting. Last time I played that, not one of them was even born. Post-sprinting, I work on bouncing skills. It is amazing what a difference even a mediocre field makes in being able to bounce the ball.

The post-training meeting lasts another 45 minutes, and again the review of pointers from last week' s games is the primary focus. Game assignments are handed out and I have a game on Sunday at 10:30. The milestones are reported and a couple of big ones are on the list: 450 and 500 game milestones happen this weekend. I contemplate reminding them that I will hit my FIRST game, but opt to stay silent until after the weekend to see how it goes.

The AFL uses three field umpires and this is spilling over into the local leagues a little bit. Hugh Moore, who is in charge of this umpire group, like Kevin Smith, has umpired for years and is well respected as a teacher. He takes the top group of umpires to discuss the results of "testing" the three umpire system. This is why I am here: these types of discussions simply are not possible back home.

The feedback system here is in-depth and multi-layered. It includes feedback from umpire observers as well as the coaches. The umpires also critique the teams' prepration for the game (is the ground ready, are the teams dressed properly and on time, and much more). I will be getting my feedback quickly as I don't have weeks and weeks to work on things. After my game on Sunday, I'll spend the rest of the day following the "observers" as they evaluate the other umpires. With this much happening at the umpire level, I can only imagine what goes into player training.

Back at Andrew's home, it is 9:30 pm and that means Channel 9 and The Footy Show. This is similary to all the NFL shows that preview games, but has a large dose of hilarity thrown in. This particular week, however, has a special guest: Ron Barassi! He is being honored in February 2003 for 50 years in footy. During the interview, the possiblity of renaming the Grand Final to the Barassi Cup is mentioned. I, of course, know that can't happen as the Barassi Cup is already in the US, and one month from now the Rooboys will be holding it high overhead! After running 30 minutes over the scheduled 90 minutes (evidently this happens like clockwork every week) the network must have told them enough is enough, and they get off the air. Me too: time for sleep.

Australia 2002 International Cup, Report #3 Jeffrey Persson

Friday 8/9/02

Today is the last free day before everything gets started. The
will be boarding the plane tonight and should be here Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, I have a rare moment to just be a tourist.

We head out on the Metro, the rail transport more extensive than the
system in the Bay Area, but less so than the NYC Subway. Actually quite
similar to the MTR in Boston, but with more grafitti. We arrive at
Station in the Central Business District (CBD) right on the Yarra

The weather is quite nice for the first time if five days. After a
bite, we head into the Melbourne Aquarium, which has only been open for
few years now. This aquarium specializes in fauna of South Seas. It has
the usual modern aquarium exhibits so we get to see sharks and rays
feeding, pet the starfish, and watch the really big sharks and rays
over the top of us (in the plexiglass tunnel). Interestingly, they also
have a Swim with the Sharks tour, but at AUS$200 each and the need to
a diving course, we opt to pass. We do get to see the divers wandering
through the 2.2 million gallon tank, however, and the docent informs us
that they have never had an far!

As the sun begins to set, we head over to the Rialto Tower which is one
the tallest buildings in the world and the tallest in the Southern
Hemisphere at 55 stories, or 750 meters. The Empire State Building is
88 stories tall. On the observation deck one can see the entire city,
delta area, and mountains in the background. The sunset is fabulous and
get a number of excellent pics. We have a few two-for-one crownies as
wait for the sunset to finish (Friday happy hour is indeed happy!) and
the city lights on a surprisingly clear night.

Tonight is a bit of culture with Andrew's parents joining us to take in
show at the recently refurbished Princess Theater. The "Witches of
Eastwick" has been turned into a musical and at AUS$49 a seat on the
floor, the pricing is more than reasonable.

After a late night chinese dinner in China Town, we stumble across the
Japanese AFL team in a Japanese restaurant and stop in to chat with
They had just arrived and were eager to hear about footy in the US,
just as
we were eager to find out about the state of footy in Japan. They have
playing there for 15 years and now have five teams: three in Tokyo, one
Osaka, and one in another city I did not recognize. They play on rugby
grounds with 11 a side as space is at a premium. Japan is in the other
bracket so the US won't play them. We wish them luck and head home.

In Melbourne, the police often set up road blocks and breath test every
driver... on the freeway! They have several paddy wagons ready to go.
the BAC at 0.05% (compared to 0.08% for most of the US), it is apparent
that they take DUAs quite seriously. This is in alignment with the red
light cameras in use all over the city to catch speeders and, surprise,
those running red lights. All told it makes driving quite a bit safer
the US. Anyway, we make it through, no worries.

Saturday 8/10/02

Today at last, the Revolution arrives. We head over to the first
of the itinerary: the Eltham match. Eltham is the local club that has
US players training with them and is also the host club for the US.
team has a host club to help with getting acclimated, coordination of
to go for games and trainings etc. The Eltham seniors are also on the
of their ladder, so we should see some excellent footy today.

The way footy works is they have Under 18s play at 9 am, reserves at
and seniors at 3 pm. Donnie is playing in the reserves, but has been
"called up" today to play seniors: I am sure it has nothing to do with
Revolution being here!

The US team arrives at the ground just after the seniors gets going. It
great to see the whole gang pouring out of the vans all dressed in the
coats! The weather is absolutely gorgeous: the best since I've been
They don't know what they missed this past week. The match is terrific
is close the entire way, but Eltham pulls it out. Best of all, Donnie
a goal early in the fourth quarter and gets quite a few congratulations
from his mates! There are more than a few comments coming from the
spectators! I, of course, am observing the umpires in preparation for
first umpire assigment tomorrow.

Andrew's brother is turning 20 so naturally we have to take him out. In
Australia, the drinking age is 18, so the clubs cater that. The parents
to as many drop the kids off so they won't be driving. Taxis are
as the evening gets late. In addition, those under 21 can't afford to
get a
DUI. Breath tests are compulsory whenever one is pulled over, even if
it is
for a minor speeding ticket at 9 am. The penalty is severe for under
loss of licence until 21 if the BAC is anything greater than 0.0. The
should take note.

Sunday 8/11/02

Today is my big day. The first US umpire to umpire in Australia. This
Under 14s Division 1/2 between Mossguil Park and Noble Park. There are
few rule differences for the juniors (such as 15 metre penalties and no
swearing). Also the ground is longer and quite a bit wider than what is
normal in the US.

Andrew is umpiring along side me today. We run through the pregame
and get ready to take the field. This field is also used for Cricket,
the pitch is covered with a heap of sand in the middle and there are
center circles as a result. We also have boundary and goal umpires,
is quite a luxury compared to the US.

The ground is too rough so we can't bounce. The sides line up and we
started. The kids take off like rockets and the pace is fast and
The skill level and intensity is much higher than the US game. Even the
small kids get right in and play hard with the bigger kids. They also
do a
lot of hand passes and run throughs trying to move the ball quickly.
other big difference is the use of the wings and pockets. They hardly
the middle at all.

The first quarter moves quickly and Hugh Moore, the Umpires Adviser
out with a few pointers, mostly related to positioning. Then we're
back at it. At the half time break, we get back to the locker room for
quick feedback session and some much needed liquids. Even though it is
cold, overcast, and windy, we work up a sweat. The second half goes
much as did the first half, although as Noble Park kicked about five
in three minutes to put the game away. Tempers get a little hot, but a
quick penalties keep them in line and the game finishes with no
All in all, a successful first game.

We pack up and I head out to watch three more games and talk about
stuff" such as when to pay free kicks, boundary umpire positioning,
signals, change of control, etc. When the day is done, we head back to
to complete the paperwork, grab a quick bite, and head home. Tonight we
pack up and move to the hotel with the rest of the US squad.

Oh yeah, the US squad! they had a practice in the "real" winter weather
today and then went to Colonial Stadium to see the St. Kilda v. Geelong
match. We see the last quarter on TV and regret missing "an absolute
ripper": Geelong holds on by a solitary point (102-101) as St. Kilda
six straight goals only to fall short. We'll get to a few games next
weekend, though. Meanwhile, a new week means the cycle starts again.

Jeff Persson

Australia 2002 International Cup, Report #4 Jeffrey Persson

Monday 8/12/02

Today the "unofficial" Cup begins. The US has scheduled a friendly warm
match with Denmark at Windy Hill, the training ground for the Essendon
Bombers, our host club. We grab an early breakfast (before the talk
the dietitian) and head to Windy Hill. After a good 45-minute chat with
dietitian, we know the bacon and eggs are not going to be on the
menu any longer!

I am umpiring this matchup to give the guys a chance to work out the
and butterflies. We agree to play two-hand touch rather than full
so no one gets hurt, but after the first quarter, both teams agree to
go at
it. Possibly because this is footy after all. Besides the US kicked
goals to nil, so Denmark had nothing to lose. I try to be extra tough
both teams to give them a feel for what they can expect over the course
the tournament in terms of umpiring. I think it helped as the coaching
staff had a number of areas to address with the players afterwards.

The weather alternates between rainy and sunny a few times throughout
match, and after the slow start Denmark puts a number of great plays
together and essentially plays evenly the rest of the way. No official
score was kept, although the US did win (a bit of revenge for last
loss in the Atlantic Alliance Cup in London!) Both sides wish each
well in their games.

The US Squad heads out for a meal of pasta, per the dietitian's
instructions. We then head back to Windy Hill where Kevin Sheedy, one
the great coaches, is welcoming the US team to the Cup and where the
players will get their jerseys presented to them. What a terrific honor
the boys! Sheeds regales us with stories of players he has coached, his
efforts to promote footy in other countries and compares the game
to the game in Australia. Being at one of the original VFL stadiums and
listening to one of the great coaches is something for us to remember

Tuesday 8/13/02

Today and Friday are the coach and umpire clinics for those who want to
take on another aspect of growing footy around the world. Participants
every country are there. As surprising as it may sound, I decide to
the umpire clinic, headed by Lawrie Woodman and Neville Nash, two of
greats of the game. This is absolutely terrific! We are also joined by
Matthew (Mattie) James, one of the youngest umpires in the AFL and has
done his first AFL Grand Final last year.

We learn the basics of umpiring, review video illustrations, and ask
questions on a number of topics. We then head out to the field to
signaling and bouncing. Mattie helps me with a couple of technical
and soon I am sending the ball high and straight quite frequently. This
kind of help is not easy to get in the US!

Back at the coaching clinic (which finished later than our clinic),
Jim Stynes, a Brownlow winner, is talking about how to play the center
square and how ruckmen should approach rucking. BJ Gambaro from Atlanta
used as a practice dummy for illustration and we talk afterwards with
as well. Again, you just don't get this in the US!

When the clinics conclude, we head off to Optus Oval, another of the
venues in Melbourne. All the teams have gathered here for the official
off of the International Cup. The welcome speech is delivered by Dr.
Smith, a two-time Brownlow winner. There are 330 players and another
100 or
so support staff here from around the world in the spirit of fun and
competition as well as growing Aussie Rules. How cool is this! In
the actual Cup is here and line to get a picture with it is immediately
too long: luckily, I was one of the first so, no worries, mate.

The US plays in the first game of the competition tomorrow, so we head
to the hotel to get some rest. The games are finally upon us.

Wednesday 8/14/02

The day starts early, 5:45 am with breakfast (sans bacon and eggs as
expected) and then it is into the vans. We drive an hour-plus to
Sandringham and get ready for Samoa. The boys are pumped up and ready
go. The national anthems play and Samoa, as requested and agreed,
their traditional dance. It is good to see the celebration of culture.

The game is extremely physical from the very start. I notice BJ Gambaro
uses the rucking tips provided the day prior and wins the opening tap.
poured hard the night before so the conditions are wet although it is
at the moment. The US has the desire, but struggles to keep its feet
match up with the skills of Samoa. Lance Van Putten makes a beautiful
around the wing, and with the help of two shepherds, sends a kick into
forward line that is marked and kicked for goal. Way to go, Lance! At
half-time, the US has a slight lead of two goals.

The third period is just as physical, but the US seems to be gaining
confidence and their intensity at the ball is improved. As the period
to a close, a final kick from the US sails true and pushes Samoa deeper
into a hole: the premier quarter goes to the US. The fourth quarter
the Samoans reach deep and close the gap, but the US steadies and runs
eventual winners, 52-31. As the US and Samoa were ranked 5th and 6th,
is a tremendous start for the boys.

We stick around for the South Africa and New Zealand match as well as
of the Ireland and Canada match. We will play all four of them over the
next seven days, so the coaches are paying close attention.

Andrew and I have another date, however, and we miss the team dinner in
order to go to the AFL umpires training tonight at Melbourne
They start off with a warm welcome for me and Andrew and after a quick
review of the Cup, they video review pieces of the prior week's games
illustrate decision making relating to "staging". Staging is when
embellish the play trying to draw the free kick. It is getting more
prevalent and so this is how the umpires attempt to keep ahead of it.

Following the video session, we head out to the track for training.
is simulating game situations, so we do a lot of changing directions,
following play, and sprinting to position... followed by a bounce.
guys are rated on bounding ability and can be sent to the "minors" if
are not up to snuff. Thanks to the pointers I got the prior day, I send
out of seven straight up and receive a lot of encouragement from the
who do this for a living.

The guys are all terrific and want to chat about the state of the game
the US as well as how the Cup is going. A couple of them ask if I know
Vince McBurney (he used to umpire the Nashville home games). "You mean
number 29?", I say. "Yeah, he never was very good!" they chide. "That's
what all the players told him in the US!" So you see, umpires are human
beings with senses of humor after all!

Well, it's back to the hotel. I have been given the opportunity to work
field in the first match tomorrow at 10 am, thanks to Neville Nash
flexible in trying to work in an opportunity for me. The US plays New
Zealand (ranked #2) at 2 pm, and this will definitely be the deciding
of the tournament for the US. But, dear readers, you'll just have to
for the next report to see what happens! Until then, Cheers!

Thursday 8/15/02

Today is a huge day for the US. But before the highlight match of Pool Play can take place at 2 pm, there is another significant event occurring at 10 am. Neville Nash of the AFL has arranged for me to be one-third of the field umpires for the South Africa vs. Canada match. I join Rob and Bruce as the field umpires who are both thrilled to be a part of this event. This marks the first time an international umpire will be involved in an Interational Cup match! WOW!

We go through the pre-game necessities and listen to the national anthems. The entire South African team is under 5'9" and 150 lbs each, yet they still throw their bodies into the play. Their passion for the game is evident no matter the score. South Africa hangs tough and Canada is inaccurate in their kicking. Halfway through the second, South Africa crumbs a ball from 40 meters out and snaps a bouncer that finds the goal line: their first and only goal of the tournament to this point. He is carried on his team mates' shoulders as if they had just won the tournament.

I get my feedback at quarter time and half-time: except for positioning, it is positive. The positioning in the three-umpire system is different from the two-umpire system that I am used to (three umpires is the US is unheard of at this stage, so it is new for me). Meanwhile, South Africa hangs tough and only trails 1-11-17 to 1-3-9 heading in to the fourth. After two South Africa near misses from 20-25 meters out, Canada finally finds a way to put through a couple of majors to seal the victory.

During the second half I make the necessary adjustments and everything goes smoothly. I end up with three bounces, two of which are straight, high, and true. The feedback is extremely positive, and the rest of the umpies are just as thrilled as I am to have been a part of this. The sheer joy is apparent and they speak true when they say that this game was the most fun they have ever had at a footy game. Now that is what the Cup is all about!!!

Well, on the the main event: USA vs. New Zealand. The Kiwis are the favorites in this pool and thumped South Africa by 25 goals in their first match yesterday, but the US is coming off of a convincing win over a physical Samoa team. After the anthems play, New Zealand performs its traditional Haka dance. Again, more celebration of culture in the spirit of the Cup.

The game begins and the US struggles immediately, with New Zealand gaining the upper hand early. The ground is slightly wet and the US players are having a hard time getting numbers to the ball and keeping their feet. The skill level of the Kiwis is apparent as they are able to move the ball more effectively and are able to get open for marks. Lance Van Putten is again playing well on the wing, helping move the ball into the forward line and roving in defence. Late in the second, a few breakdowns in defence lead to several goals and at half-time, the goal count is Kiwis 6, US 1.

In the locker room, a tired Revolution team tries to forget the mistakes of the first half and focus on getting back to basics. Spirits rise as the coaching staff asks if any one has ever seen a team kick five goals in a half. Of course this is well within reason and the Revos are back to the task at hand. Back on the field, the third quarter starts, and the US immediately gets beat for another goal, but then stadies and plays strong the rest of the quarter scoring one more major. Unfortunately, a well-placed Kiwi kick finds a mark as the siren sounds. The subsequent goal pushes the lead up to six goals.

In the fourth period, the skills of the Kiwis shine through and trumps the valiant and repeated efforts of the Revolution. Dustin Jones has a terrific half of football, demonstrating that the first US scholarship player learned a lot with Essendon last year. His efforts help the US score two more majors, but the Kiwis put three on the board and as the final siren ends the match, New Zealand is triumphant 11-5-71 to 4-1-25. While the loss is disappointing, the coaches remind the players that it is only one loss and three more games are yet to be played. The US has the toughest draw of the tournament, playing #6 Samoa first, #2 New Zealand second, and #6 Ireland third (on Saturday), all in a four day span. But first things first. A team dinner and lots of sleep are in order for the boys.

Friday 8/16/02

Today is a rest day (and a much needed one at that). But for those in the coaching and umpires clinics, it is back to the classroom. Inthe umpires clinic, we again have the services of Neville Nash, AFL umpire Matthew James, and today we have AFL Umpires Assistant Coach, Adrianne Panozzo as well. We run through drills on positioning, discuss the philosophy of umpiring and conclude the clinic with a question and answer session. Even though I have been through the clinic twice before, I am still learning and becoming a better umpire each time.

Tonight is an historic event. All eleven teams head down to the MCG to take part in the pregame Parade of Nations. Outside Gate 8 the teams gather. South Africa is chanting, Samoa is singing, Japan and Canada are cheering, Nauru and the US are taking pictures. Everyone is have an absolute blast in this celebration of footy.

We head into the tunnel and are lined up alphabetically, New Zealand, Samoa, South Africa, and the US in the rear. Andrew and I see the game's umpires who invite us up to their room for a quick look around. We wish them luck and head back to the line up. For the next 45 minutes, the singing, chanting, and dancing continues. The sounds echo through the MCG's halls and I am sure that the people at the entrance to the ground are wondering just what is going on. Towards the end, all the other teams start chanting, "USA, USA" encouraging us to do something. Of course the only thing we know is our team song, "Auld Lang Syne" (modified slightly), so we sing that, out of tune of course, and everyone else cheers!

Then it is out the ground to be lined up. The MCG has 40,000 people tonight and they cheer for everyone. As we parade around the ground, Samoa stops three times to do their pregame dance. Each time the crowd roars its approval. Being out on the ground at the MCG: unbelievable! What an incredible experience!!!! Oh, yeah. There was a game of footy being played: Richmond topped Hawthorne in a nail biter.

Saturday 8/17/02

Today is Round 3. The US plays Ireland in Geelong. Ireland beat Samoa by a goal two days ago, so the team is feels they can win today and avenge their loss in last year's Alliance Cup. This is the first time to play on an AFL venue. The tremendous experiences just keep on coming.

The ground is slightly wet, but the weather is absolutely gorgeous. These two teams are not exacly friends, so after the national anthems, the hard hitting starts straight away. The US struggles a bit to keep its footing and seems a little sluggish, getting outscored 4 goals to 1. In the second, with the ground drying somewhat, the defense holds Ireland to 2 goals, but the offense fails to record a major.

The half time mood is quite high in spite of the score. The offense commits to putting three goals per period on the board and to support the defenders who have been playing their hearts out. In the third, Ireland gets an early goal, but then the US begins to win the ball out of the middle, scoring two goals quickly. With another goal, the US pulls to less than 10 points, and as the quarter expires, a near mark in the goal square would have narrowed the margin to less than one goal.

Playing inspired ball, the US continues to improve its play and is really looking like a footy team. The hard hitting continues all the way to the final siren, but the US comes up short 7-7-49 to 6-3-39. The second half was the best half of footy the team has played so far in this tournament (in my opinion). Post-game, the loss hurts, and the US can now finish no higher than 5th. Still the team commits to playing just as hard and finishing the job they came here to do.

Tonight, we head to the MCG to catch another game: Essendon and Collingwood. The Bombers blast Collingwood early and run away with it. Possibly most importantly, this is the first night for the US squad to let loose. With Sunday a rest day, the boys need to have a little bit of fun. So, after the game it is off to the pubs. We start at Bridie O'Reilly's and then hit the Metro. Apparently, the pubs don't close until 5 am or later in some cases, so who knows how late everyone might be. I elect to be a designated driver and test my skills of driving on the left side of the road. At 3 am. No worries and no booze bus. It's really not that different.

Sunday 8/18/02

Although the US squad has the day off, Andrew and I are working hard. We each have two juniors games with Dandenong. My first one is at 9 am and the prior night's rain has made the field a slippery mess. The under 14s from Fountain Gate and Pakenham slog their way through it. These types of conditions make umpiring tough because players are slipping, the ball is wet and heavy so it does not travel very far, and the players end up forming packs. When the ball does not keep moving the game gets quite difficult to umpire. Some additional rain makes sure that it does not get any better.

Then it is off to the second game at noon. This is under 15s with Silverton and Endeavor Park, both in the finals ("playoffs" to my US readers!). This ground is quite a bit dryer and the boys move the ball extremely well the entire game. At three quarter break it is a two point game. The final score is two goals difference, by far the closest match I have done in a long while. And judging by the amount of screaming and yelling from the coaches and fans, we must be doing a great job (at least that is what umpires think when they hear a lot of screaming and yelling at them). Unlike last week, no one calls for me to be sent back the US!

Kristen Sadler's parents surprise me by showing up for the second match. Even better, her Mum is wearing her Australian Festival t-shirt, Nashville Kangaroos cap, and their car has a Roo bumber sticker! Now I feel at home!! We had been emailing and trying to get together for a week and I really appreciate their determination in tracking me down! It is so cool to know people halfway around the world! Kristen arrive Saturday and I leave on Sunday, so we agree to get together for lunch on Saturday.

At the end of the day, I complete my level 2 umpire accreditation manual. This is the other of the two major goals of my trip (the other having been completed by virtue of being a field umpire in a Cup match). I will be the first US level 2 umpire and possible the first non-Australian level 2. I'll need to check on that. Anyway, my trip is now two weeks completed, one week to go.

Monday 8/19/02

Today is another double whammy day. I have been asked to field umpire a second International Cup game: South Africa vs. Ireland. After that, the US takes on Canada. The ground today is at Elstenwick and although it is a little shorter, it is a much wider ground. Plenty of space to run. The ground is not wet (for the first time in the tournament!) so there should be no excuses.

Andrew and I had out before the rest of the team so I will be on time. Upon arrival, Neville Nash, the umpire coordinator informs me he had a boundary umpire call in sick for the US game. Although this would pose a minor problem with me being from the US, the only other alternative at this hour is to have the players do throw ins on one side. Naturally I agree to help.

In the South Africa - Ireland game, the Irish are undefeated and take no mercy on the winless Buffaloes. But the Buffaloes are all heart and play the entire game full pace and actually give the Irish a good run for the money scoring a total of three majors, bringing their tournament total to five. As was the case with the first game I did last week, everyone has a great time.

Another surprise occurs during the third quarter break when Matthew James, the AFL umpire who co-conducted the umpire clinic, comes out and compliments me on my game.How cool is that?! We chat about his game at the MCG last Friday and about how great the whole Cup has been. After the game, Lance Van Putten informs me he got a picture of my game opening bounce (which was straight up, thanks Matthew!) Can't wait to get that one!

After a short rest, I come out for the US-Canada match up. The US boys had a players-only meeting this morning to refocus the team. They come out fired up and the play rockets up and down the field but no scores go up on the board until late in the first quarter. It is not until the third quarter that the US starts to pull away, with the superior skills and conditioning of the Revolution beginning to pay dividends.

The fourth period begins and the US suddenly hits is pace for the first time in the tournament. The team is firing on all cylinders and now looks like a team on a mission. By the end of the match, the play is nearly all in the offensive zone of the US. Final Score: US 8-4-52, Canada 1-1-7. On a personnal note, boundary umpires have to run way too much; I think I'll stick with the field umpiring!

Tonight, the Canadian team has invited the US to a barbecue (before the match!), so both teams head over to the hotel where team Canada is staying. Unlike our hotel, they have a lobby with couches, video games, a pool table, a ping pong table, and internet access! And a bar: maybe a few too many distractions? Anyway, it is a chance for both sides to kick back and relax. The teams have just played 4 games in 6 days and deserve a rest. Still, some of the guys head out for some late night festivities, but I have run 4 games in only 2 days, and really need some rest myself.

Tuesday 8/20/02

Today is a rest day for the teams. More importantly it is my rest day! My back is a bit sore from throw-ins (I was twisting too much before Andrew straightened me out), so I ask Christine Lazark, the team chiropractor, to help. She does her thing and I am feeling a lot better almost immediately. I rarely need help like this and it was great to know the planning group had the foresight to bring her along!

Andrew and I decide that I can skip training at Dandenong tonight. He heads off to ready his resume to send out for his job search and I head to the mall in a van load of Revo players and staff. Shopping is on the agenda, and we catch an afternoon movie. Luckily, Tuesday is bargain day: AUS$9 or about US$5. I chose to see SIGNS, with Mel Gibson. Not too bad, but overly predictable. My rating: wait and rent in on DVD.

The group heads out for a dinner of pasta at Pellegrinis in downtown Melbourne. The price is decent and the owner loves us: the team seems to have someone eating there nearly every day. I think they should sponsor us next time! As is part of any good rest day, it is off to bed early. At least I got the rest of my shopping done. Only 4 more day left and I head home.

Wednesday 8/21/02

Round 5. The US vs. South Africa. We are back at TEAC oval in Port Melbourne. Neville Nash again has a boundary umpire call in sick and needs me to run the boundary for him. This time it is the Canada - Samoa game. Naturally, who am I to turn down an offer to be a part of another Cup game?

The outcome of the US game was never really in doubt. What was in doubt was whether the US could sustain its play from the second half on Monday. The US players are almost to a man bigger than the biggest South African, so the plan is to get the ball in the air and use their height. This works well enough and they put 7 majors on the board, but missed several more opportunities. At half time, the coaches challenge the forwards to put their best game on. Unfortunately, two players have slightly sprained ankles, Chris Olsen of Orange County and our own Lance Van Putten. Luckily for Lance, his might be ready for Friday. Chris is not so lucky.

I have to leave to prepare for the next game so I don't see the barrage that hammers South Africa: 13 goals in the second half for a game total of 20. This is the best US scoring in international play. I can only imagine how they looked doing it. The win sews up the third spot in pool B and gives the US a finals round match up with the British squad on Friday. They head off to lunch, and return to watch Ireland and New Zealand.

The Canada - Samoa game is pretty much the same as the US - Canada game with Canada fighting valiantly, but not being able to get majors on the board. Samoa ends up 4th in the pool and will play Nauru. Canada is 5th and will play Japan.

The boys return for the battle of the undefeateds Ireland and New Zealand. Denmark, second in Pool A to Papua New Guinea, shows up to watch and will play the loser of this match. The British show up as well. The Stadium is getting quite full! Before the match begins, ABC Channel 2 is filming footage to use on Friday night before they broadcast the Kangaroos-Hawks game and they ask to interview me. Supposedly, this will air around 7:30 pm. Guess I have to use up some of my 15 minutes! I'll have to ask Andrew's parents to tape it.

Ireland grabs the early lead and at halftime, has a goal lead. The Kiwis have pounded everybody so far, including the US, and are not used to trailing. Ireland, however, has been close in every game, and seems to handle the pressure much better. The second half goes much the same as the first and as the final siren sounds, Ireland are the Pool B champs, 4-8-32 to 3-2-20. Everyone shakes hands as they walk off the field. Good on ya, mates!

With Round 5 completed, the next function is a dinner reception for the 11 teams at Colonial Stadium. As has been the case through out the tournament, the camaraderie is everywhere. Guys are chatting, swapping team gear, watching the video of tournament play, and celebrating. The All-Cup team is announced with Chad Martin and Charlie Ellis honored from the US. Kevin Sheedy again provides the keynote speech and South Africa, Samoa, and New Zealand close the show with their songs and dances. Another incredible celebration of culture and footy. I know I keep saying that over and over again, but so what- it's true! What an honor and privilege to be a part of it all.

Thursday 8/22/02

Another rest day. After the events of the first two and a half weeks, it is hard to believe that we have almost reached the end of the journey. After sleeping in for the second time in three days (or second time on the whole trip, depending on your point of view), a group of 13 of us head to the MCG for a tour of the grand old facility. Alan's father works there giving tours and through this "connection" we are being given a courtesy tour!

The tour starts at 1:30 and normally lasts up to an hour. There are other tours going on while we are there, but we are getting the royal treatment, including a photographer who shoots an entire roll of us in different parts of the 'G'. At some point we will get these forwarded to us. Anyway, our tour lasts until nearly 4 pm as we spend time looking over everything.

We learn about the history of footy: it was invented to keep cricketers from getting fat and lazy in the winter! The first game was played in 1858 right here at the MCG (although it was in the park outside the oval as the game was not allowed to be played on the cricket oval!). We learn about the history of the MCG; that it hosted Olympic Games in 1956; that it will host the Commonwealth Games in 2006. We see the locker rooms (and dream of actually having ANY rooms back in the states!), sit in the Members' section, sit in the coaches' box, tour the members only facilities, and walk the ground. We see the profiles of the greats of the past. We tour the museum of Australian sports. All in all, an excellent experience. If you think you know a lot about a sport in the US, I challenge you to a trivia contest in your chosen sport versus anyone raised in Melbourne doing footy trivia. I'll put my money on the Melbournian every time. That's how entrenched the religion of footy is.

After the tour, Andrew and I head off to training at Dandenong (no rest for the wicked!). Luckily, this is a special night. Kate Moore, one of the senior umpires, had the pleasure of umpiring the Samoa - South Africa game last Saturday and the Dandenong Umpires Association invited both teams to a barbecue, so in lieu of footy training, we get "culture" training. After devouring a ton of food, the South Africans demonstrate some of their cultural songs and dances. Then the Samoans do the same, including their rendition of the New Zealand Haka and their own Shiva Tau (I mentioned this pregame ritual before, but now I know what it is formally called). Then everyone dances and chants together! Andrew gets the whole thing on video: Andrew- I want a copy. It is with great reluctance that they finally depart: Friday is finals day.

Friday 8/23/02

Finals Day. Today we are at Junction Oval in Melbourne. The first match is Canada - Japan for 9th place. This turns out to be quite an exciting match with the teams never more than two goals apart until Canada finally holds on for their second win of the tournament. It is great to see players who hammer away at each other for the entire game turn to each other at the final horn and hug and shake hands. Truly this is what competition is meant to be.

After the break, the US takes on Great Britain. The US is a bit sore at not playing for third place and they continue their aggressive play from the prior two matches, jumping out to a huge 50 point lead before Great Britain scores their first major. The second half goes pretty much the same as the first and the US finishes 5th with an impressive 80 point win.

Unfortunately, I missed the last quarter due to a prior engagement at the MCG. Neville Nash has appointed me the emergency umpire for the Grand Final: if one of the umpires can't finish the game, I step in. The incredible experience just keep on coming! Andrew and I head off to the MCG to get ready. We meet the other umpires and the two field umpires are Rob Schuler and Brett Ritchie, both of whom I had the privilege to work with earlier in the tournament! Both are excellent choices and have earned the honor to work this game. We get to practice bouncing before the game... in the center circle of the G! Now how many people get to do that! I won't soon forget the sound of the ball makes when I bounce it here.

Anyway, the game is Ireland vs. Papua New Guinea and is being broadcast by Fox Footy. The Irish get on the board first and often, getting out to a 3.3.21 to 0.0.0 first quarter lead. PNG looks quite sluggish, though being heavy favorites. They finally get on the board in the second, but it is not until the third before they get their first goal after five "shoulda-beens". They are still in it when Ireland puts up two more goals midway through the period and then run out the clock to win 7.9.51 to 2.7.19 and are crowned the first ever Champions. Congratulations to the Irish!

We stick around for the Kangaroos and Hawthorne match up. Hawthorne needs to win to stay in the finals race, but the Kangaroos are too much for them. With the Roos scoring 119 points, yet only winning by 15, it was a great match, and actually reminds me of another squad of Rooboys back home who routinely put up well over 100 points a game: tey have a game tomorrow that will be the first game I'll miss in three years. Good luck to all the Nashville Kangaroos as they look for their second undefeated MAAFL championship season in three years!

Well, only one more day to go and one more match. But that will have to wait until my final log once I get back to the States.

Saturday 8/24/02

Kristen Sadler arrived this morning for her two week holiday. Met up with her family for a delightful yum cha lunch (chinese dim sum). We can't get yum cha in Nashville, unfortunately, so I wanted to indulge before leaving Melbourne. It's great to fly half way around the world and have lunch with someone from home!

The Cup teams are catching another weekend of AFL games, so we head over to the MCG and watch the Swans demolish the Demons. If they had played like that all season, they would have made finals! Andrew barricks for Melbourne so he had to sit and suffer the humiliation! As we head out, the South Africans are singing and dancing. I overhear someone comment, "I'm gonna miss those boys". So true: they have been a joy from start to finish.

There is one more game at Colonial Stadium this evening, but I have one more game in Dandenong. We head off to the remote southeastern corner of Melbourne known as Pakenham where the under-16s finals games start tonight. Andrew is on field and I am on boundary. The game starts at 8:00 pm and the temperature is 3 Celcius (about 38 Farenheit!). Thankfully, tomorrow I get to to go back to the northern hemisphere where it is still summer.

Footy finals in Australia are quite an event at any level and this match is a nailbiter down to the end. These kids have great skill levels and are marking a wet ball in cold and damp conditions all game long. North Dandenong builds a three goal lead through three quarters but in the fourth Mossguil Park comes back and kicks a goal to go up by two points. A brilliant mark taken in a pack in the goal square and subsequent goal returns the lead to North. The final siren goes about 15 seconds later. What a finish!

Sunday 8/25/02

And what a finish to this adventure. Thank goodness I don't suffer a similar adventure making my flight home as I did the flight out. The Canadian team is on the Quantas flight to LA as well, although they connect to Toronto rather than Nashville, understandably. Some of the flight attendants and as well as other passengers are curious about the Cup and many have heard of it through the media coverage. This is quite encouraging for the future of footy in the rest of the world. The International Cup 2005 should be quite an experience. After 19 hours of flying time, at last I make it home. Sleep sounds like a great option!

I hope everyone has enjoyed sharing this experience with me and I appreciate the emails that people sent during the past three weeks. I owe many thanks to many people who made it all possible: Lawrie Woodman, Rowan Sawer, Neville Nash, and Adrian Panozzo from the AFL; Paul "Plugger" O'Keefe, Rich Mann, and Andrew Boyle from the USAFL; Hugh Moore and Kevin Smith for allowing me to participate in their umpire leagues; AFL umpire Matthew James and his collegues; Andrew's parents for hosting me; Coach White, Peter Beare, Shane Clohesy, and the rest of my Nashville Kangaroo teammates who have been so supportive; all the Revolution players and staff for their encouragement; and last but certainly not least, my fiancee Holly Baker for letting me head down under for three weeks!


Jeff Persson

- Jeff Persson

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