Pike humbled by award

Matthew Molloy
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Gander official named winner of Ross Arlett Memorial Award

Gander’s Gene Pike may not be the type of person who looks for recognition, but he’s appreciative of it when it comes his way.

SPECIAL HONOUR — Gene Pike, left, stands with his son Brendan at a recent Lyon versus Real Madrid match. Gene was the recipient of the Ross Arlett Memorial Award, and received the prestigious award at the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association AGM.

So, it should be no surprise when it was announced he was the recipient of the Ross Arlett Memorial Award, Pike wanted to talk about the sport of soccer, which country has the best league, and some of the best players around the world.

The last thing he wanted to talk about was himself.

However, the long-time referee, player and coach was honoured by the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association (NLSA) on Nov. 12 at its annual general meeting for his work as an official in 2011.

Although he'd sooner talk about the sport, the moment was about him.

"Brian Walsh, the director of referees in the province, called me at work one day when I was right in the middle of something, and asked if I could send him a little bit of information. I passed along my CV (curriculum vitae), which is like a resume I have that I've kept the past 30 years from being involved in soccer," said Pike. "A couple of days later, they sent an email back notifying me that I won the award. I was very honoured just to be nominated, but to win it was pretty special."

The Ross Arlett Memorial Award is presented annually to the individual judged to have contributed the most to the soccer officiating structure within Newfoundland and Labrador, and it remembers Ross Arlett, who made major valuable contributions to the overall soccer officiating program within the province.

"Ross Arlett was perhaps the largest contributor to refereeing in the province of Newfoundland," said Pike.

Although the award is based on what Pike did in the field of officiating in 2011, he's built a long resume that dates back to 1984 as an all-star player with Corner Brook Minor Soccer.

Since that time, he's completed numerous coaching programs, coached the Central U-15 Summer Games Team, coached numerous all-star teams, held the title of president for a few soccer associations, instructor, plus much more.

Soccer keeps him busy, and that's the way he likes it.

"I love the sport...nobody knows how much I love the sport of football. I've basically given every free moment of my time back to the sport. I fell in love with it when I was 11 in Corner Brook, and a light switch came on where I basically said, ‘Wow, this is the greatest sport in the world,'" said Pike, who also played high level tennis in Corner Brook. "It's relatively cheap, it's high intensity, it's excellent fitness, and I just fell in love with it. From coaching, playing for 25 or 28 years, starting refereeing in 1996 in Corner Brook, running the men's indoor program in Corner Brook, I've just been so involved, and I don't regret any time I spent in the sport, because if somebody gets something out of it, if they can see some of the passion and love that I see, then it was all worth it."

“I love the sport…nobody knows how much I love the sport of football.” Gene Pike

However, becoming an award-winning official doesn't come without its sacrifices. Like all sports, soccer officials sometimes take the brunt of insults from fans, coaches and players, but it's been all worth it to Pike.

He's built up enough experience to understand what it takes to be an effective official, and even offered some advice to those just starting out in the world of soccer officiating.

"As an official, the most important thing is you must remain neutral. Every game that I've done, I've held the philosophy that I was going to be fair and remain neutral. In a referee's position, you can't be the one that's in control on the pitch. The referee shouldn't even be seen, and they should only be there to make sure the laws of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and the rules of the match are followed," said Pike. "They really shouldn't take centre stage, and they should be in the background allowing the game to be played and making sure the rules are followed. As a referee, if you live by those simple rules, you'll go out and do a good job. Refereeing comes down to experience, too, and the more games you referee the more experienced you become."

Heading into the future, Pike wants to continue playing an active role in soccer as a player, coach and official. He doesn't do it for the notoriety, just the love of the game.

"I'm not a shy person, but I don't like the praise, or pat on the back, or the one who gets awards," said Pike. "I do it for the love of the sport, and I would do it with or without the awards. I'm going to stay actively involved with refereeing, coaching, and playing for as long as my health allows me. It's nice to be recognized, but I don't look for limelight. It's just not my personality."

mmolloy@ganderbeacon.ca

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association, FIFA, Fédération Internationale de Football Association

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador

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