Trinidad and Tobago referee Crystal Sobers was the only local football representative on the honours list yesterday as Concacaf toasted the best talent in the confederation for 2018.
Sobers, who officiated at the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup and Women’s Under-20 Championship, finished second among the confederation’s top women’s referees, behind Mexico’s Lucila Venegas. Concacaf’s top male referee, Cesar Ramos, also hails from Mexico.
The Concacaf winners are decided based on the selection of national team coaches and captains (50 per cent of the vote), journalists (25 per cent of the vote) and fans (25 per cent of the vote).
Sobers, who is from D’Abadie on the outskirts of Arima, said she is honoured by the recognition.
“It is a surprise and I think it just highlighted my hard work,” the 30 year old official told Wired868. “It is really good to be recognised and with not much opportunity as well. I’m not on social media much, so I didn’t know anything about [the final selection] until [Referees Association vice-president] Mr [Osmond] Downer sent me an email.
“And I said I will take that!”
A former right back for Bishop Anstey East High School, Sobers—who also attended school at Arima Senior Comprehensive—was once handy enough with the ball at her feet to be shortlisted for a Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team that included iconic sisters Kimika Forbes and Karyn Forbes.
She did not play in their ultimately successful Caribbean Football Union (CFU) campaign though, and, discouraged by the state of local women’s football, she eventually quit as a player. An advertisement for referees in a local paper, seven years ago, afforded her an opportunity to approach the game from a different angle.
Sobers believes her personality helped her steady rise with the whistle.
“I think my personality is my strength,” said Sobers. “For me, it isn’t about being the main person on the field; it is about delivering what the game needs. And it is just about enjoying the game.
“Because I played and understand the game, I think that helps me too.”
Incidentally, Sobers spends most of her time officiating at men’s games.
“In Trinidad, we don’t have many female games,” she said.
The difference between men’s and women’s games, in her opinion, is vast. She explained that while refereeing at the local men’s Pro League level might help her fitness levels, the men’s game is more physical and players of different sexes respond differently to officials in game situations. So it would be impossible to use the same approach for both sexes as an official.
At present, Sobers seems to have the respect of all sides though.
“When I first saw the Concacaf nomination [for consideration], I saw that I was placed among World Cup referees,” she said. “So I thought I’m not even going to bother. These women are all known [and have big reputations], who is Crystal to be on this line-up.
“But after seeing that I made the final three, I think it must have been performance and not just voting. Because I am quite sure I did not get many votes.”
Although Sobers was Trinidad and Tobago’s only recognised representative yesterday, the Jamaica Women’s National Senior Team certainly drew praise for their own showings.
The “Reggae Girlz” received the Outstanding Performance Award for booking a maiden spot at a senior FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament, which was the first for a Caribbean team.
Jamaica coach Hue Menzies was adjudged Concacaf Women’s Coach of 2018 while forward Khadija “Bunny” Shaw and midfielder Jody Brown were both named in the Concacaf Women’s All Star XIs.
Shaw, who was voted the UK Guardian’s 2018 Player of the Year, was also named on a three player shortlist for goal of the year—which included both sexes—with the eventual honour going to Club America’s Joe Corona for his strike for the Mexico domestic champions against Panama’s Tauros FC in the Concacaf Champions League.
Concacaf 2018 Honour List
Men’s Player of the Year: Hirving Lozano (Mexico/PSV Eindhoven)
Women’s Player of the Year: Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride)
Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year: Keylor Navas (Costa Rica/Real Madrid)
Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year: Alyssa Naeher (USA/Chicago Red Stars)
Men’s Coach of the Year: Matias Almeyda (Chivas)
Women’s Coach of the Year: Hue Menzies (Jamaica)
Men’s Referee of the Year: Cesar Ramos (Mexico)
Women’s Referee of the Year: Lucila Venegas (Mexico)
Goal of the Year: Joe Corona (Club America vs Tauros FC)
Men’s All Star XI:
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas (Costa Rica/Mexico);
Defenders: Edson Alvarez (Mexico/Club America), Hugo Ayala (Mexico/Tigres UANL), Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica/Minnesota United FC), Cuco Martina (Curaçao/Stoke City FC;
Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Mexico/Porto FC), Michael Bradley (USA/Toronto FC), Andres Guardado (Mexico/Real Betis);
Forwards: Hirving Lozano (Mexico/PSV Eindhoven), Bradley Wright-Phillips (England/New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Giovinco (Italy/Toronto FC).
Women’s All Star XI
Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher (USA/Chicago Red Stars);
Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan (Canada/Olympique Lyonnais), Crystal Dunn (USA/NC Courage), Tanna Sanchez (Mexico U-17/Tecnologico de Monterrey Campus Puebla), Becky Sauerbrunn (USA/Utah Royals FC);
Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (USA/Portland Thorns), Jody Brown (Jamaica/AS Roma/), Nicole Perez (Mexico U-17/CD Guadalajara);
Forwards: Christine Sinclair (Canada/Portland Thorns), Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride), Khadija Shaw (Jamaica/University of Tennessee).