United World Wrestling referees are asked to perform their tasks in gyms around the world. Largely unpaid, most referees have full-time jobs and take considerable time off of work in order to cover the world's most important wrestling tournaments. Many leave their families and daily routines behind, which for some can be a jarrring, and sometimes unhealthy, change of pace.
A few years ago referee Ibrahim Cicioglu of Turkey began promoting healthy competition among the referees, pitting continental sides (normally Asia and Europe) in football matches of the host cities where they were working. "It's easy for referees to eat late dinners and otherwise be inactive, so we wanted them to have a fun way to stay healthy on the road," says Cicioglu. Football was the answer.
To accomplish their goal of playing in every city the referees often have to hunt for a suitable field and locate a ball. The task was once held by a single referee, but after misplacing the ball too many times an on-sight purchase became necessary.
"This is a great way for us to bond and keep fit," says Cicioglu. "If we don't play soccer in the mornings then we go for walks and find other workouts. For many it can be a highlight of the trip."
At this year's World Championships in Las Vegas it was Europe who claimed continental dominance beating Asia, 10-6.
- Tim Foley, United World Wrestling