16 Jul Topasna, Elwell selected as referees for EAFF U15 tourney
[July 16, 2018 – Harmon, Guam] Football referees Michael Topasna and Josiah Elwell hope to learn as much as possible and gain a high level of international officiating experience to bring back to Guam at the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) U15 Boys Tournament in Beijing, China beginning July 23.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity, especially because I was selected by Guam Football Association for it, and also because I’ve never traveled for sports before, so it will all be a new experience for me,” Elwell said. “I’ve been training at GFA almost everyday, reading up on the Laws of the Game every moment I can, and running on my own to improve my fitness to get ready for this tournament.
“Through the tournament, I hope to improve as a referee by learning from other referees there and course instructors during class sessions and games,” added the 18-year-old from Mongmong.
The EAFF invited member countries to nominate and send up-and-coming referees to officiate at the tournament to aid in their development. The objective of the referee course and clinic is to “elevate the level of pre-national referees of the next generation in the East Asian region through provision of development and training opportunities,” according to the EAFF Web site.
Topasna, a 20-year-old from Talofofo, has been officiating in matches in Guam for six years. Three years after he first started, he was nominated to officiate at the 2015 EAFF U13 Youth Tournament at Leo Palace Guam Resort and again the following year, for the AFC U14 Regional Festival of Football in Beijing, China.
“Based on my past two international experiences, I already know that the bar will be set high for the referees nominated to officiate at the tournament,” Topasna said. “One of my goals is to eventually earn a FIFA badge when I reach the minimum age and work my way toward appearing at a FIFA World Cup. Gaining international experience from these youth tournaments will help me reach my goal.
“A referee’s job is never easy – through the years I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone, but everything I do is for the love of the game. The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from my experiences is a greater appreciation for football and the sport in general,” Topasna added.
In China, the pair from Guam will join referees from other East Asian countries for classroom, fitness, and practical sessions. Hong Kong’s Charles Cheung and Japan’s Noboru Ishiyama have been appointed as referee instructors and will be assisted by Mao Heming of China, PR.
Locally, both Topasna and Elwell have officiated in Aloha Maid Minetgot Cup Elite Youth League matches, as well as matches in both the Budweiser Soccer League and Bud Light Women’s Soccer League among other leagues. For the past few weeks, they have been training together with Eladio Manansala, and FIFA Assistant Referees Kyle Legozzie and Shawn Spindel.
“Here in Guam, we are lucky to have a very accessible program at GFA and good opportunities to move up the ranks as a referee,” Topasna said. “My advice to younger referees looking to gain international experience is to just stick with training and also officiating as many matches as they can in the different leagues. They’ll eventually be recognized and receive nominations for international tournaments.”
Elwell echoed Topasna’s sentiments.
“If you really want to be a referee, there’s a ton of opportunities at GFA,” Elwell said. “GFA wants its referees to succeed, so if you keep working with GFA, they will help you get where you want to be.”
In addition to referees, EAFF also invited member countries to nominate and send young coaches for a coaching course during the tournament. Guam will be sending Derrick Cruz for the coaching course.
All 10 member nations of the EAFF will be sending a team to compete in the tournament. Guam’s U15 Boys National Team has been drawn into Group B and will play against Korea Republic, DPR Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau beginning July 23. The tournament is made possible in great part by funds from the FIFA Forward Development Program.
Topasna and Elwell depart Guam July 18.
Michael Topasna monitors play during a U15 Boys National Team training match at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in this file photo. Topasna has been selected by GFA to participate in the EAFF Referee Clinic 2018 and officiate matches during the EAFF U15 Boys Tournament in China, PR. Photo courtesy of Jesse Mesa/GFA.
Josiah Elwell gestures to indicate the direction of play during a U15 Boys National Team training match at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in this file photo. Elwell has been selected by GFA to participate in the EAFF Referee Clinic 2018 and officiate matches during the EAFF U15 Boys Tournament in China, PR. Photo courtesy of Jesse Mesa/GFA.