José María García-Aranda by Julia Otero

Posted By on jul 22, 2000 |


Having a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and experience as a football teacher at INEF (former Instituto Nacional de Educación Física),  José María García-Aranda will be the only Spanish referee at the  2000 UEFA European Football Championship. He has an undoubtedly merit-able background, as he has been our first countryman to referee three World Cup games. He claims for himself the high-level competition category – he practises for two hours six days a week -, although he recognises the role of the referee: discretion. He is considered a sharp man, steady on his decisions and skilful to impose his authority. It seemed to me, though, a gentle and friendly guy.

How can you become an exemplary Spanish referee?

Refereeing requires a lot of stamina and you need to be determined, even a little bit stubborn.

Your physical fitness is obvious, but, tell me, how do you train your spirit?

Currently, the most important asset is our psychological training. Information about any football game in the media starts several days ahead of its taking place, and it keeps going on for some time after, so we must learn to handle pressure.

Do all of you work with the wickers of stoicism?

[Laughs] Indeed. There is a natural selection that, when it starts, steps through our physical condition (it is not an easy task leaving a little pitch safe and sound); and the higher the category, the more important our psychological condition becomes.

And which is worse, getting a blow with a bottle or being made miserable?

The latter, undoubtedly. The damage is deeper. But we must guarantee the rules are followed, regardless of the fact a certain team is supported by 100,000 viewers and the mass media, whereas the other team may be on their own in the field.

By the way, what came to your mind when you went into the Riazor pitch on the last day of the league, knowing the Depor fans had been looking forward to that title for six years?
Those matches bring an extra load of responsibility, as everything depended on those 90 minutes. But one should not feel stiff about it.

As a Madrileño, we suppose your colours, or, better, the colour…
[Laughs]. I had a very special education. My father, also a referee, used to take me to watch Madrid or Athletic in the afternoon, and Rayo or Castilla in the morning. I was brought up in objectivity and love for football.

I would have taken them to be incompatible…
It is difficult because passion moves football, and passion is blind. But a referee cannot allow himself to feel it.

During our lifetime, we often make mistakes for fear of being wrong. Is it so with a referee?
That is our great fight, feeling gripped by fear.

Once at home, do they have to remind you that you are no longer working?
Absolutely not [Laughs]. We who must make so many decisions, let others make them at home.

I have questioned my colleagues in sports about you. They have told me, ‘His character has been tempered, he does not try to draw the attention any more’. Did you do it before?
The fact is when one is younger, one tends to be more impulsive. Time and experience provide temperance.  I no longer feel like proving myself even more than I am required.

Look, I can’t help it any more, I will ask you, is it not a perversion you work on something whose highest reward is nobody remembers you and its most frequent punishment is being insulted?
That’s what we often wonder, and there are times when it is not easy to find the answer. The point is being aware that exercising justice is in our hands and strength.

That sounds like the eroticism of power…
Well, yes, it is the responsibility of power. There is no other charm, either material or in the form of popular recognition. No referee is known, no matter how well they did it, to have turned into a hero.

On the contrary, there is many a historical villain, isn’t there?
It is an ordeal to go down in history for just a single moment, and having tried to do the right thing.

What would you send to the inventor of the Moviola for Christmas?
[Laughs]. Perhaps an action replay video of his own life.

And when somebody has to confess before the video that, as they say, ‘they cocked it all up’?
There is a feeling of powerlessness and strong distaste.

Are there good actors among football players?
Some of them are nearly perfect. The notion of sport is fading in favour of that of business and entertainment. In the past, a player was demanded honesty by his own followers. Now he wants to win at all costs, and of course, anything goes, even unsportsmanlike actions. Nobody demands fair play.

And how can you instil respect into 22 containers of testosterone?
Players try to see how far they can go when the referee has just been upgraded and he is unknown. Whereas with veterans they know their limits.

Do you consider it reasonable referees are paid image rights despite the fact nobody goes to watch you?
But, for better or worse, they watch us a lot. We have our TV share.

At work you are always surrounded by 22 billionaires. How do you take this undue disadvantage?
You have to take it fine. We could not referee feeling envy.