TORONTO - He has travelled halfway around the world for the privilege of being booed, cursed, vilified and slagged.
Most of us would cash in our plane tickets and stay home if we knew such verbal abuse was waiting for us at World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
Not Winnipeg’s Hector Vergara, though.
Vergara has no choice in the matter. As an assistant referee for the coming World Cup, he knows being yelled at and called “a #$%&@!” time and time again goes hand and hand with being one of the event’s officials.
And he can accept it, thank you.
This will be the third — and, most likely, last — World Cup for Vergara, the executive director of the Manitoba Soccer Association. With FIFA having implemented an age limit of 45 for its referees and assistants, Vergara, 43, will be celebrating his last soccer hurrah in South Africa.
Vergara’s World Cup run kicked off in 2002 when the tournament was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. Four years later, he worked the sideline for the highly anticipated semifinal between host Germans and eventual champions from Italy.
It was a thrill of a lifetime for the Chile-born Vergara, who first dipped his toes into the officiating pool partially to earn some extra income. His love of the job took off from there.
“I started with the intent of just staying busy and keeping fit and making some money, but then I got bit by the refereeing bug,” he said recently. “I guess I got bit pretty hard, because I’m still doing it today.”
Vergara’s officiating crew also includes a pair of Mexicans, referee Armando Archundia and assistant ref Marvin Torrentera.
Maybe Canada didn’t qualify for the World Cup but at least there will be some Canadian content on hand in South Africa in the person of Vergara.
We can almost hear the jeering now.
While Vergara is serving as an assistant, only one Canadian has ever refereed a World Cup match.
Werner Winsemann, now 77, accomplished the feat 36 years ago when Sweden and the Netherlands played to a scoreless draw in Germany.
While Vergara is not a household name in many parts of this country, one of the newcomers to the Canadian media contingent in South Africa certainly is.
Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, born in Johannesburg and raised in Victoria, has accepted a gig to report on World Cup 2010 for
CBSSportsline.com, filing video clips and reports. Nash’s video production company, Meathawk, has partnered with the website in the endeavour.
“This project ... combines two of my passions off the basketball court: The ‘beautiful game,’ known internationally as ‘football,’ and video production,” Nash said in a release. “I look forward to shooting some memorable pieces from South Africa and giving fans a unique and sometimes humorous look at the World Cup.”
Nash, 36, is a soccer aficionado. He is a part owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, where his brother serves as captain. The Whitecaps will join Major League Soccer in 2011.
Good on England for locking up Fabio Capello as national team manager until after EURO 2012. Capello finally appears to have brought discipline to a talented English side that, frankly, needed some. Of course, should England have an early exit from the World Cup, fans will be screaming for his head no matter how long his contract was extended. The move, by the way, ends Inter Milan’s hopes of having Capello succeed Jose Mourinho, who bolted for Real Madrid just days after leading Inter to the Champions League title ... Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness is urging injured German captain Michael Ballack to retire from the national team. Ballack will miss the World Cup with an ankle injury.