Mr. Wagner, most young boys prefer to get behind the ball.
However, at the age of 14, you decided to become a referee. Why?
Wagner: Purely out of curiosity. I am passionate about
playing soccer and in my youth I played for my home team in
Kriftel, which is close to Hofheim. One time, a boy the same age as
me was refereeing one of our matches. I was so impressed by his
confidence and skill that, as soon as the match was over, I asked
him how and where I could qualify as a referee myself.
You've shared the turf with mega soccer stars such as Arjen
Robben and Kevin Kuranyi. How do you create the necessary air of
Wagner: As a referee, it's my job to manage a game,
not to blow my whistle at every opportunity. That's the only
way to ensure the players respect you in a way that allows you to
run the match smoothly. That includes taking preventive action
during the game through, for example, gestures and having a quiet
word with the players. This approach stops rule-breaking before it
happens, because the players are more disciplined and this benefits
every aspect of the game.
Referees are seldom praised but are often used as scapegoats.
How do you deal with that?
Wagner: I have learned to redefine praise and
recognition. If there are no TV cameras or reporters waiting for me
after a match, I can be fairly certain I've done a very good
job. In those instances, I feel like a striker being carried aloft
on a lap of honor through the stadium.
During the week you manage projects and on the weekend you need
to keep an unbiased but focused eye on the ball for a full 90
minutes. How do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit?
Wagner: My job and refereeing are like a one-two. I can
bring a lot of my experience to bear in both arenas. In fact, there
are a great deal of similarities between the two - referees manage
projects too, primarily work with people, work under time pressure
and need to perform well. Successes on the soccer field are also a
source of motivation in the office and vice versa. But of course
the groundwork still has to be there and that's why I train
every day, except on the day of a match and the day after.
What's more, I prepare myself thoroughly for the next game by
looking at all the important decisions taken during the Bundesliga
matches on the same day and analyzing my performance during the
match on DVD. That all eats up time. Taking into account travel to
and from the game, preparations and follow-up work, a match takes
up a good three days.
The statutes of the German Football Association (DFB) state that
47 is the maximum age for a referee in the top league. Once you
reach that age, will you referee somewhere else?
Wagner: After 33 years in shorts, my future will be in
long pants! I'll be working for the German Football
Association, in charge of training for around 80,000 referees.
I'll probably dust off my whistle now and again for a charity
match though, as I'm very involved in various aid
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