Massachusetts Referees Shine at Sun Bowl

by Sherman Whipple

(TAMPA, FL) A delegation of seven referees from Massachusetts received high praise for outstanding skill and professionalism when they traveled South to officiate at the 2000 Tampa Bay Sun Bowl, the boys youth national invitational soccer tournament held from December 27 through December 30, 2000.

Open only to Grade 7 and higher USSF referees, Massachusetts was represented by Paul Ciaramitaro (19) of Gloucester, Russ Wolf (27) of Dedham, Dave Del Buono (22) of West Springfield, Frank D'Andrea (23) of Belmont, Josh Brothers (22) of Dudley, Shem Stygar (20) of Norfolk, and Derek Ambrozaitis (28) of Middleboro. Massachusetts Referees have been invited to officiate at the Sun Bowl in previous years. In 1999 Ambrozaitis, Brothers and Jeff Turner, of Plymouth represented the state.

The Tampa Bay Sun Bowl showcases the top boys soccer Clubs from the US and Canada in U-14 to U-19 age divisions. 316 teams from nearly every state East of the Mississippi were represented, and other clubs traveled from as far as Colorado and Oklahoma to participate. A major lure of this tournament is the opportunity it provides to be scouted. There were 210 coaches representing 163 Colleges and Universities in attendance, plus representatives of the US National Team. Girls competition is featured at the Orange Classic in Ft. Lauderdale / Plantation, FL on the same dates.

"The overall play of the tournament was amazing. Comparable if not better than regional play, because many of these teams were regional champions," states Paul Ciaramitaro. "We were officiating the U-14 group for most of the week and the play was incredible. Many of the players would have no problem competing in U-17 MAPLE or higher. Not one game went by when I didn't notice a national team coaching staff member on the sidelines of our fields, looking for players."

Arrangements for the Massachusetts delegation were coordinated by Derek Ambroziatis, who serves the Massachusetts State Referee Comittee as the Coastal League Area Referee Administrator. The seven referees were assigned together for the entire tournament, working as crews and rotating between center referee, assistant referee and fourth offical. Many attendees of the event were pleasantly surprised when the Bay State crews followed the USSF recommended pre-game procedures.

"The competition was great and so was the play. It was all one touch, two touch soccer the whole time." recalls David Del Buono. "The parents were very respectful and complimented how professional all the Mass refs were - always being consistent and checking nets before the start and before the start of the second half."

A total of 253 referees from the US, Canada and Haiti were recruited to officiate at the 2000 Sun Bowl. Each gave up much of the Christmas holiday to officiate at the nations most popular all boys soccer event.

In a statement from Mike Mekelburg, Director of Referees for the Tampa Bay Sun Bowl. "These seven young men were among those 253 referees. Referee Assessors reported their level of competence as to field game control, appearance, and knowledge of the game. The report was rewarding for me. They performed to the top level. Their reward was that three of them were awarded one of the U-16 finals, Derek Ambrozaitis, Josh Brothers and Paul Ciaramintaro, where they proved again their professionalism." "These gentlemen are definitely an asset to both the State of Massachusetts Referee Association and the Tampa Bay Sun Bowl and I thank them for the opportunity to work with them," concluded Mekelburg.

The Massachusetts referees were equally impressed with the caliber of the tournament, the conditions of the playing fields, and the support of tournament officials. The only disappointment was a mix-up in their flight which delayed their return to the Bay State for a couple of days.

"Overall, the experience was great and I cannot wait to return--even if I get stuck in Florida for a few extra days" said Ciaramitaro, of his experience.



Referees as Super Stars?

(TAMPA, FL) On the second day of the Sun Bowl tournament, the Massachusetts delegation took advantage of a four hour break between games to enjoy a relaxing lunch at a nearby restaurant. As they prepared to leave, a young boy approached Derek Ambrozaitis and said: "Excuse me, sir... can I have your autograph."

Ambrozaitis was more than happy to oblige. The other referees in the group gave the boy a Massachusetts pin, and MSRC flipping coin. "He was so exited to have something from us. It was great. I guess we performed very well off the field as well," said Ambrozaitis.


Photos provided by Russ Wolf

(L to R) Russ Wolf, Shem Stygar, Derek Ambrozaitis, and Josh Brothers

Josh Brothers

(L to R) Frank D'Andrea, Russ Wolf, Paul Ciaramitaro, and Dave DelBuono

Ciaramitaro and Brothers complete game reports