Nfld. & Labrador

Local soccer linesman has sights set on the big leagues

With the top amateur soccer players in town, the Challenge and Jubilee Trophy tournaments need some top referees.

Jeff Au's goal is to referee major league soccer

The St. John's referee says he's always had his sights set on calling games at a professional level. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Some of the top amateur soccer players in the country are in Newfoundland and Labrador taking part in the Challenge Trophy and Jubilee Trophy tournaments — and top national players require top referees. 

Among the officiating staff working the lines is 22-year-old Jeff Au of St. John's. 

"My main goal is try to make to the Major League of soccer," Au says. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Au says he's always had his sights set on calling games at a professional level.  

"My main goal is try to make to the major league of soccer," he said. "That's where I would like to end up."

This week, he's getting experience working as an assistant referee calling the lines for the highest level of soccer in the province

MLS referee Geoff Gamble shared advice with Au at the Challenge and Jubilee Trophy tournaments in St. John's this week. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Au is also getting help from a colleague.

On Thursday, he worked alongside longtime official Geoff Gamble, a referee who's worked with Major League Soccer for five years. Gamble told CBC News he's racked up a lot of travel miles this season. 

"I've hit almost 70 flights this year," Gamble said. "I do a lot of travel." 

Gamble says he knows all about high emotions on the field. "We as referees do develop a bit of a thick skin — but there is a line. So as long as [players] are not crossing the line, we are okay with taking it." (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Gamble's been calling games for more than 20 years.

"It's really great for us as senior officials to come out to some of the these events," he said.

"Help mentor some of the younger officials. It's always nice to give back to the system. It's almost the pay it forward-type scenario."

And it's the kind of help Au certainly welcomes. 

"It's really great. Geoff Gamble gave a lot of helpful information, a lot of helpful tips and it helped my game today," he said.

Au says he's enjoying calling games on home turf. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Earlier this year, Au travelled to Texas for the Dallas International Soccer Festival, a great experience for the up-and-coming referee. 

This week's hometown event will wrap up Au's soccer season, but he said the work doesn't stop there.

"Hard training back in the fall for fitness tests and hopefully next year brings something good."