When did you decide to become a referee, and who were some of the influences on your career?
- At the age of 15 in a school soccer tournament in Mexico, while being a player at the same time and captain of the school’s squad, the athletic director of the school asked me if I would take on the opportunity of refereeing the games between the teams created within the school. After agreeing to take on that task, he then sent me to a fast-track session to understand the rules of the game. Even after that, all I remembered was that there was a whistle, and a yellow and red card. I still remember the first time I took the whistle and went on the field with no experience whatsoever. After that first game, something inside me just took a new found interest to continue because I felt like I enjoyed it. For two years I continued conducting the referee duties in events such as school tournaments. After that, I came to the United States, specifically to southern California, and I continued refereeing local leagues. At that point I felt that if I worked hard and prepared myself, I could become a top referee in SoCal, which I accomplished after several years. I was fortunate that Nasser Sarfaraz saw me doing a state cup game while he was in charge of referee development of the Southern California area. He later invited me to be part of his selective group of referees. From that moment on, as my first mentor, he created a path for my development and he was the person responsible to advise me and give me the opportunity to ref local professional games like PDL and international friendly games. At the same time, he worked on allowing me to be part of the U.S. Soccer academies. Here I met important people who opened me the door to the professional level and later helping me become an international referee.
What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of the refereeing profession by coaches, players, fans and the media?
- Being a referee is a tough job because in every game you have to make very difficult decisions and people don’t forgive when you do happen to make a mistake. Normally that is all they remember, especially in these times when there is a lot of scrutiny, but we always have to be prepared physically and mentally to go into every game and try to do our best.
From your perspective as a professional referee, what are the best and worst aspects of being a referee and/or assistant?
- The best part of being a referee is that you become a disciplined person that has to follow a style of life and to be an example for others, not only on the field of play but most importantly off of the field. The worse aspect of being a referee is definitely after a game when one of your decisions was incorrect and it changed the outcome of the game, because you know the consequences.
In your opinion, what are the key attributes that a modern-day referee must have to be successful domestically and internationally?
- In my opinion, to be successful and consistent you have to follow a very serious type of discipline and training, and also be open to learning day to day.
How do you diffuse a volatile situation that you know players are about to explode?
- With my experience knowing most of the players in our league, I know the way to approach them in those situations. You talk to them and try to convince them to focus on the game. The most difficult part for referees is to calm down players’ emotions, but that comes with experience.
What are your impressions about the proposal to add additional assistant referees on the field?
- Personally I think it could be positive for the game. Having said that, those decisions should rightly be made by U.S. Soccer.
What do you think about the ‘RESPECT” campaign that U.S. Soccer has launched?
- I think it’s very positive. They are trying to bring attention to all the fans and people who are involved with soccer how important respect is for creating a positive and enjoyable environment.
What’s your pre-match routine?
- I rest the most that I can and keep my mind away from any issue that can take away my concentration.
What’s your pre match meal?
- Before the game I always try to eat something light, like salads. I also have a lot of liquids.
We all have bad games. How do you deal with such a match in your mind?
- I always take those games as experience and learn all the positive things from them, and at the same time I try to forget it so I don’t carry that into my future games.
How would you describe your style of officiating?
- I describe myself as a tough referee who always makes my decisions based on the laws of the game.
What is your most memorable game moment?
- The two most memorable games would have to be the 2008 & 2010 MLS Cups. When I started refereeing professionally, my dream was to one day referee the MLS Cup as this is the biggest show for our country and Major League Soccer. It’s the most enjoyable game for every referee, and it is a reward for all the hard work you put in to get there.
How often do you train?
- As part of my full-time job, I follow a regular training program unless I’m traveling for games during the weekdays. If that is not the case, my training starts on Sundays with very light work just to relax my muscles from the previous game. On Monday I go back into a regular routine. I rest Tuesdays, and then go back Wednesdays and Thursdays. Typically on Fridays I travel to my games.
What are your plans or ambitions as a referee for the near future?
- As part of my job with U.S. Soccer, my responsibility is always to be focused and consistent with my performance in every game.
What advice would you give to anyone who desires to become a referee?
- Create goals and believe in yourself, always fight for your dream and never give up on yourself. If you work hard, you will get it.
Baldomero Toledo, thank you very much for your kind and insightful contribution to our Referee Community.
US Referee Connection is pleased to welcome Mr. Baldomero Toledo. He is a FIFA referee and MLS referee since 2007, He is also one of the full-time professional referees in US
Baldomero, please accept a warm welcome to US Referee Connection.