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Article 5 - North American Soccer League

Keith Hackett’s Article (5)

North American Soccer League


Can you Hackett? Questions are at the bottom of this article

Keith Hackett Sketch.jpg

In 1981 I was invited to referee on the NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE which I readily accepted knowing that the experience of refereeing 24 games in an eight-week period would accelerate my career. My base was the famous Waldorf Astoria, New York City but within hours of landing and securing my green ticket I was handed a folder full of airline tickets. Tampa Bay Rowdies (Florida) Vancouver Whitecaps, New York Cosmos, Tulsa, Portland, San Jose, Chicago Sting were posted on the roster of the first sheet.

My referees kit was provided and typical of American sport on the back I had the number 8, Guest Referee, my first game was Rowdies v Fort Lauderdale.

Rowdie’s stadium up to 2015

Rowdie’s stadium up to 2015

I was driven onto the field in a Police car and the speakers announced has I got out of the car that I was ….”Guest Referee Keeeeeeith Haaaackett !… all the way from England”.

I gave a wave and then stood at the centre of the field whilst both teams were introduced one by one has, they ran out onto the pitch. It went something like, “Playing number 10, with 15 goals and three Assists we have former England International and Rowdies favourite player Rodney Marsh.”

I had received instructions that during each half I had to arrange two one-minute stoppages so that television could play appropriate ad. breaks. I learned quickly that when I was going to apply a stoppage I would run to a player on the ground and instruct him to stay on the ground, calling for the Physio to come on and treat. With my arms above my head, I would cross them to inform the independent timekeeper to stop the clock for 60 seconds.  After the 60 seconds the television crew standing at the side of the pitch would give me the signal to say the 60 seconds was up. A strong whistle then got the game underway.

Carlos Alberto in his Brazil Strip

Carlos Alberto in his Brazil Strip

Some of the games were played in Baseball and American Football Stadiums with Chicago’s Wrigley Field and New York Cosmo Giants Stadium remembered with fondness.

There were of course a variety of International players from Europe and South America across most of the teams, I recall on one game heading for Giants Stadium stuck in traffic in Lincoln Tunnel. The cab driver recognised someone who was running with a pair of soccer boots in his hands. He wound down the window and shouted for the runner to get in the cab. It was Carlos Alberto the Brazil team captain who a few years earlier had lifted the famous World Cup Trophy. The cab driver explained that I was the ref for the game. We shook hands, smiled and with a couple of hundred yards to get to the Stadium entrance I jumped out of the cab and walked the rest of the way.

In that game I produced an early yellow card to the Cosmo number nine who responded by shouting and standing like a Toreador, “Do you know who I am, no I said, but I do need your name, I am the famous GEORGIO CHINAGLIA.” He was not happy and uttered a few swear words has he walked away.

Georgio Chinaglia in his Italy strip

Georgio Chinaglia in his Italy strip

After the game he came to my dressing room and I was expecting him to have a go at me. To my amazement he asked if I would give him my yellow card. I handed it over and he shouted “You crazy Englishmen, no one shows Georgio a yellow card. Playing that day alongside Carlos Alberto was Franz Beckenbaur  and Julio Cesar Romero. Paraguay International.

In future programmes I will tell you more about my games overseas

Keith Hackett


QUestion 8. 

You give a penalty but the side's specialist penalty taker is off the pitch receiving stitches to a head wound suffered in the incident.  The other players refuse to take the kick until he returns, saying that would unfairly penalise them.  What do you do?  

Question 9.

A striker goes down in the box but you wave play on.  As the ball runs away you blow for full time.  When you turn around you see the linesman is flagging for a penalty - and started doing so before you blew up.  What now? 

Check your answers here