As I get older, I often wonder how long I will be able to referee? In just a few games, I can rack up 6 - 10 miles of walking, running and at times, sprinting.
At 47, after a weekend on the pitch, my legs, feet, muscles and tendons are extremely sore. I come home absolutely exhausted and I hobble around for a day or two afterwards. Will there come a time when I can't ref anymore? I don't think so.
Meet Nathan Mattick. He was born with Cerebral Palsy, but that has not stopped him from chasing his dream to become a Football (soccer) referee. He wass the first wheelchair bound certified referee by the England Referee Association. He is 26 years old and has been taking charge of matches since 2015!
I had the absolute pleasure of making his acquaintance on TikTok and we have since become good friends. He was one of the first people to reach out to me when I tore my hamstring back in March 2022. I remember how gutted I was to be injured. After hearing from Nathan, I was reminded of his strength and determination that keeps him out on the pitch year after year.
Some people struggle with mustering the confidence needed to pick up a whistle. I think about the judgements and assumptions Nathan must rise above.
Some people struggle physically to meet the physical demands of being in the right position on the pitch. I think about Nathan navigating to the field and then around the pitch on his wheelchair.
Many people struggle with life in general. I think about Nathan and he inspires me to live life to the fullest and to be thankful for every second I have on earth.
After getting to know this young man, I don't think anything could keep me away from the game I love. I might not be able to run as fast as I used to, but I know I will be on the pitch as a referee for many decades to come.
May we all have the strength of character as Nathan Mattick.!
Image credits: Gloucestershire Football Association