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Brandon resident named international official

Bob Heilmann walked the sidelines of the Leto-King girls soccer match in the cold rain last Friday night, acting as a linesman.

Next month, the Brandon resident might be walking the sidelines in an international match in Italy, Germany, South America or some other nation as a Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) official, an appointment he received two weeks ago.

Each country involved in international football _ or soccer, as it is called in the United States _ has seven referees appointed by FIFA.

As a result of some new rulings sent down by FIFA Jan. 1, each country will have additional linesman appointed, besides the seven referees.

Six have been appointed for the United States so far and Heilmann is one.

"The new rule was initiated to improve communication in officiating international matches," said Heilmann. "No FIFA referee could officiate a non-exhibition match involving his own country. But a match could have a referee from Italy, and linesmen from Brazil and Germany. The potential for a communication breakdown is there and FIFA has eliminated that by appointing officiating teams speaking the same language. It is quite an honor. I just hope I get some matches before I reach 45."

Another new FIFA rule eliminated all officials past the age of 45. Heilmann is 42.

Last year each state in the United States was invited to submit nominees to fill the seven slots for FIFA linesmen, whose job as an official is to serve as a back-up for the referee with special attention to offsides and out-of-bounds calls.

Heilmann's name, and Joe Michna's from Ft. Lauderdale, were submitted to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).

A specially appointed USSF committee recommended seven men from the 50 states and submitted them to a FIFA selection committee in Zurich, Switzerland.

Both Floridians were appointed.

"I though that all recommendations by the USSF would become automatic selections by FIFA, but only six were selected," said Heilmann. "Now we just hope to get some matches soon."

All FIFA officials around the world are volunteers. The receive expense-free travel plus a per diem per match.

They don't have unions to battle for wages. They are evaluated by professional FIFA inspectors at every match and if they have a "nightmare" they can be ignored for any future matches.

"A nightmare is a totally bad match with a combination of errors or being out of condition and missing part of the match," said Heilmann.

"It is not just making a call not agreed upon by someone else. A FIFA inspector closely evaluates the performance of every official in every international match."

Heilmann officiated his first match alone, with no knowledge of refereeing and little knowledge of soccer.

"In 1972 a friend ask me to officiate a match for Mary Help of Christians in Tampa," said Heilmann. "He gave me a rulebook to read and I did the whole match alone. After that, I did what I had to do to earn credentials to officiate Florida high school matches and have been working myself up ever since. I kept getting more credentials after more courses and more seminars and eventually started officiating collegiate and professional level matches.

"I was fortunate to have been able to work many of the North American Soccer League matches when they were pretty big. That match experience along with Suncoast Soccer League Division I and collegiate matches helped me to have the 100 (minimum) national matches needed to be considered by FIFA."

Heilmann also started work as a teacher for the Hillsborough County Board of Education in 1972. He currently is a guidance counselor at East Bay High School.

He plans to continue officiating for high school, college, professional and national matches. He may run the fields and sidelines in more rainstorms and cold winds, but he will be hoping for that first call in an international match soon.

"Officiating soccer is still a lot of fun for me," said Heilmann. "Even after I pass the age of 45 and can no longer be a FIFA linesman, I will continue to officiate as long as it is fun. When it is no longer fun I will stop."

Humane Society tennis benefit: Mary Seiferd, Hidden Palms Racquet Club Pro, has announced the fourth annual Humane Society Tennis Tournament has been scheduled for March 14-15.

All events will be at the Hidden Palms Club at 733 Knowles Road.

Entry fees are $25 for one event and $35 for two events. All proceeds will be given to the Humane Society.

Contact Mary Seiferd at 685-3956 for additional information.

Brandon Cup: Team applications are currently being accepted for the Brandon Cup Youth Soccer Tournament scheduled to start Match 21.

Call Rick Nemeth at 685-3738 for applications and information.

_ To report Brandon area sports information and news write to Around Brandon, c/o Terry Jones, St. Petersburg Times Sports, 723 W Lumsden Road, Brandon, Fla. 33510 or call 264-3394.