FIFA referee Veronica Perez returns to the Olympics
By DANIEL CASAREZ
Vida en el Valle/McClatchy News
(Published Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 10:01AM)
Soccer has opened up numerous international avenues for Verónica Pérez, who will soon be an assistant referee at the London Olympic Games.
Pérez, a 32-year-old Woodland native, is one of 36 female referees worldwide selected to officiate in London. Like all the players, referees too are representatives, ambassadors chosen by FIFA worthy of the world's stage.
It's a second trip for Pérez, who was also chosen to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Pérez along with Kari Seitz, a referee from San José, will be the representatives from the United States in the women's competition, which will be played from July 25 to Aug. 9.
Pérez, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees from California State University, Sacramento in Government and Public Policy and Administration, respectively, cannot wait for the first kickoff.
"We're representing our country. We're representing all the people back home. It's just special that we're going to be sharing the field with some of the best athletes in the world," said Pérez, who boarded an international flight from Sacramento to Dallas before landing at Heathrow Airport in England last Wednesday. Before departing, she officiated the Fresno Fuego (Premier Development League) home finale last Saturday at Chukchansi Park.
"I'm honored to be selected to do something so amazing," she added.
Pérez, a member of the California North Referee Association, which is under United States Soccer, is well known in the national and international soccer communities. Since becoming a FIFA international referee in 2008, she has officiated in nine countries: China, Portugal, Germany, México, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Canada and Panamá.
In 2010, she officiated at least four matches in the CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying matches in México City.
With the Olympics on the horizon, Pérez, a 2007 graduate of Woodland High School, spent most of her time packing and preparing mentally.
"You want to make sure you don't make any critical mistakes," she said.
And she recalls getting the phone call that delivered her to China (2008), where she assisted in the officiating in the Germany vs. Brazil match and the quarterfinal between Germany and Norway.
"It was more of a moment of sheer excitement (getting the call) then all of a sudden, I'm jumping up and down screaming and excited," said Pérez, "I would have never expected that appointment."
After accepting a spot on the panel of assistant referees in January of 2008, Pérez soon got the call to Beijing. She started her quest as a referee in 1996.
"It does take a long time to move up the ladder; a number of years of experience, a lot of dedication," she said, "We have to be evaluated on games, we have to meet so many high-level games. The more games referees have, the better the referees will perform."
Her father Héctor Pérez could not be happier that she is once again, an ambassador
"I feel so excited because it's a special thing for her," said Héctor, a 56-year-old Jalisco native who works in construction in the Sacramento area.
Héctor also played soccer in the Central California Soccer League, which is based in Sacramento, but never had his daughter as an official.
"Even when she started to do school projects; if things didn't come out right, she would throw it away because she wants everything perfect. It makes her a good referee."
During the Beijing Games, Héctor set his alarm clock to coincide with the matches.
"All of us, the family. I would have to wake up early, but then we watched and enjoyed her game. I always felt something in my heart for her when I was watching. She did a lot of work just to get to where she is."
"She has the willingness to continue to learn," added Michael Zapata, a fellow official, "and the humility to know that we're not always going to get things right."
Verónica has also gained enough knowledge and experience to officiate at the Major League Soccer level and Division 1 and 2 college matches.
Pérez, who still plays soccer recreationally, made a decision about the sport years ago.
"It was too hard to do both," she said, "so I basically chose a refereeing career."
Upon her return from London, Pérez, in September, will begin her full-time employment as an auditor for the state.
Unlike umpires in Major League Baseball, who earn upwards of $100,000 annually, most soccer officials working the Olympics will earn a base salary per match officiated.
"Most of those officials that referee at high levels here in the U.S., they always have another full-time career," said Pérez.
However being a female representative is worthy enough for Verónica, the oldest of five kids.
"I've always wanted to do something positive with my life. And public policy really gives you that avenue; where you help contribute to society and make positive changes," she said.
"I used to work for a lobbying firm, and I realized that all lobbying is not negative. There's so many things you can do for public policy; and that's why I went back to school and got my Master's degree. It's hard to get people to go out and make changes."
Verónica said she will continue to officiate matches once her job begins.
For now, she's preparing to do well and make a good impression like the 28 countries (12 women's teams, 16 men's) are preparing for play in one of the world's most-cherished events.
Verónica said every match brings more experience for officials. Videos will be taken from each match in London. Every effort is made to improve on the officiating.
And the officials themselves are involved in the physical regiment like the players.
"We had physical training every morning (in Beijin
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