Return to World Cup
Winnipeg ref gets late call
By KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun
Hector Vergara is headed back to the world's most popular sporting event.
The 39-year-old from Winnipeg has been chosen to be an assistant referee at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the world championship soccer tournament that is held every four years and begins next month in Germany.
Vergara's "dream" came true in 2002 when he was selected to work his first World Cup, when it was held in Korea and Japan, and he did such a fine job that he worked six games, including the bronze-medal match.
FIFA must have a great memory, because it has made Vergara the only assistant referee from North and Central America to be invited back for a second straight tour of duty.
"It does feel pretty good," said Vergara last night. "It's a dream to go to the World Cup, as I had said leading up to 2002, but to go twice is almost an impossible task."
Vergara, who is the Manitoba Soccer Association's chief administrator, didn't think he would get the call again, because the referee he had been working with suffered a serious knee injury in December. FIFA now views its officials as groups of three, so if one goes down, they essentially all go down.
He's obviously respected in the soccer world, however, because he has been taken out of his former trio and will work with a new pair in Germany.
"I thought my chances of going were almost zero, so for them to come back and say 'We want you to be a part of this trio' means to me that they really want me there and they value what I've done," said Vergara.
It's believed Vergara was only the fourth Canadian official to get the World Cup call. Prior to his 2002 selection, the last time a Canuck official got the nod was in 1978.
"To be able to go again, I feel pretty excited and thrilled about the whole thing," he said.
Vergara is familiar with the referee in his new trio, Armando Achundia, because they worked together in the 2004 Olympic semifinal between Argentina and Italy, and also in December's world club final between Sao Paulo and Liverpool.
"We've known each other for awhile now," said Vergara.
That familiarity will come in handy, considering the scrutiny that comes with working the World Cup. The officiating was criticized heavily in 2002, but Vergara's work was unquestioned.
That's a good thing, too, because World Cup officials aren't getting rich doing this gig. They get their flights and hotel paid for, as well as a small per diem.
Vergara leaves for Germany on May 26.