INTERNATIONAL FIFA referee, Matthew Conger (pictured above, with CurraNZ operations manager, Scott Cushman), reflects on how Covid impacted his year job as a globe-trotting official within international football:
Matthew writes: This time last year, the FIFA World Cup seminar in Doha had been cancelled due to COVID, but I had just completed the Group Stage of OFC Champions League in Noumea, New Caledonia.
From then, the dominoes continued to fall, culminating with the postponement of the Olympics and the world going into lockdown.
Throughout Level 4 here in New Zealand I tried to maintain fitness, training with modified equipment in my garage and runs and bike rides within the bounds of our neighbourhood.
Mental and emotional fitness were probably the most challenging dynamic from March until August, with so much uncertainty about when I would be able to referee international football again.
In August, I was fortunate to get back to Saudi Arabia for the last four weeks of the Saudi MBS Pro League. I joined the bubble of referees from around the world, mostly South America and Europe, where we worked together to complete the remaining rounds of competition that had been interrupted by COVID.
It provided a glimpse into the world outside New Zealand, with first-hand stories of the impact of the pandemic in different countries.
I felt tremendously grateful to be able to referee again, even though it meant adjusting to new protocols and of course being part of matches without fans present.
CurraNZ once again played an important part of my travel, training and recovery plan. I only had two days’ warning before leaving the country, when I was on the last flight out of Auckland before they went back into Level 3.
I spent the first week in quarantine in Saudi training as much as possible on the roof of the hotel next to the pool to prepare for matches. I had maintained enough of a training routine alongside my daily dose of CurraNZ so it wasn’t too difficult to get back up to speed. Of course, the heat and humidity always takes some adjusting to, but this was also facilitated by the power of the blackcurrant.
I was also very pleased and reassured to see the research come out on the immunity-boosting properties of CurraNZ, something I can attest to as well.
Returning to New Zealand and completing my two weeks of managed isolation preceded a return to refereeing on our national competition, the ISPS HANDA Premiership.
It has been a close competition this year and I officiated throughout the competition, including the Final on March 21 (above, centre).
As has been the case all season, CurraNZ helps keep me feeling physically and mentally fit throughout each match and I look forward to continuing the journey. Hopefully from here, the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead and on into next year at the FIFA World Cup Doha 2022.