Cayman’s top referee Alfredo Whittaker is gearing up for a busy period as the next round of World Cup qualifiers approach.
Whittaker and his other officials could be on duty anywhere in the Caribbean in the next few weeks. Whittaker is the island’s best known official but he feels his colleagues deserve a mention too. They are Livingstone Bailey, Ernest Berry, Dwayne Ebanks and Kenville Holder.
‘We’re looking forward to appointments for the World Cup second round qualifiers group stage. We also have some Under-21 and Under-23 tournaments going on and looking forward to that,’ he said.
‘Recently we just started mini pre-season and just expecting to get appointments.’
Whittaker, 42, trains as much as players half his age. To be a top ref, fitness is vital. That is why they are retired by FIFA at 45. ‘Sometimes, in my profession you have to be more fit than the players.
‘We don’t have a quiet moment, never a pause. We have to be on the go from one end to the other. With the players sometimes they have a two or three minute gap in active play but we don’t get that.
‘Being unfit and not able to keep up is the worst situation. To not be match fit and able to keep up with the play and to make calls from 40 or 50 yards away is not good enough.
‘Players start questioning your ability to make a call. You try to avoid that. Sometimes even when you make a mistake but if you’re close enough to the play they give you the benefit of the doubt. Fitness is the key aspect to officiating.’
Whittaker gets a buzz out of officiating. He also enjoys visiting new places, travelling first-class through FIFA’s generosity every time.
‘The travelling is the best perk of officiating and also the satisfaction you get from doing a good job and satisfying everybody. The worst is when that retirement call comes. I have a couple more good years and hope to make the best of them.
‘Once my refereeing career is over it doesn’t end there. I intend to become a refereeing inspector so I’m still looking forward to being involved in football.’
Recent trips were to Jamaica and Turks and Caicos. ‘Thanks to football we’ve been to many wonderful countries and met some nice people as well.’
He was a top class keeper, playing professionally in Honduras, well into his thirties.
‘If I knew that officiating was so demanding and so exciting I probably would have quit my football career at 25 or 30.
‘I really enjoy it. Because I played football and understand it, it’s helped me. But if I could do it all over again I think I would have started refereeing earlier and then I might have hit a couple of World Cup finals and Olympic Games.’
For South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup finals in 2010, Whittaker will be on the verge of retiring. He would love to be commissioned there but realistically that won’t happen because those plum jobs go to refs from bigger footballing countries. He was, of course, the man in the middle at last week’s Romario game.
‘Most of the time the country from where you come plays a key role, refereeing history in the World Cup shows that. This is the wrong belief and we don’t have that luxury to run into a good refereeing inspector when the big games come up.’
Whittaker refereed the Jamaica-Trinidad and Tobago friendly recently which finished 2-2. ‘That game is a different something, there is such a passion between the two teams, even though it was a friendly they go for it man.
‘I was really satisfied the following week because I met Mr Maturana, the Trinidad coach and the compliment I received from him because of the way I handled the match was very pleasing. It was the icing on the cake.’