Everyone's getting all worked up about the World Cup. Even Americans. John Steele on the Legal Ethics blog, for instance, complained about "flopping," when a player would fake some sort of devastating injury following some minor contact with someone on the other team in the hope that the ref would assume that the other player had done something very, very wrong and blow the whistle on him.
For many years in high school and college I was a soccer ref and I used to see this kind of thing all the time (well, more so in college when I refereed adults - in high school I mostly refereed youth games). I'd inwardly laugh at the overwrought melodrama of it all, but I wouldn't call it. You can't ref by inference. Either you saw the infracting contact, or you didn't. You couldn't presume it had been there just by the aftereffect, and it was better to not call something legitimate you might have missed than call something that had not happened. "Play on" was therefore a constant referee refrain, and usually the floppers would knock it off when they realized they wouldn't get anything for their acting efforts (plus it would be bad playing, since while they writhed on the ground the other team would go off with the ball...)
I liked ref'ing. It was one of my "professions" during those years, along with swim teaching, and meant that I'd never had to work in retail or food service... In high school I used to ref kids' games on the weekends in the fall, and then in college I refereed intramurals. I did it for 7 of the 8 semesters I was in school there, and after a while you'd get to know the "regulars" who were there every season. Teams like "The Young Hegelians" and "Area I" (named after the city parking area everyone on the team lived within), which I encountered often enough that their names became etched somewhere in my memory.
Anyway, cut to last fall when I was in Germany, more than 10 years after I'd refereed my last game. The school hosted several "Transatlantic Lectures" during the course of the semester, and at the end of them the head of the school would take the speaker and related affiliates out to dinner. On a few occasions I was invited to join them. (I consider this one of the highlights of my time there and was honored to have been so included.) Anyway, one of these affiliates is a German with a Ph.D. in history, and as we were chatting at the table we realized we'd both spent time studying at Cal. More than that, our time there had overlapped. So I jokingly asked him if he'd ever played intramural soccer, and to my surprise, he said YES!
"Oh really, what team?"
"The Young Hegelians."
It was great fun to realize that we'd probably been on the field at the same time. It seemed so random to suddenly run into each other in a completely different context over a decade later. But even though it was probably true that we'd "met" before, I couldn't specifically say that I remembered him. At least not right away...
He went on to explain that the team was made up of a bunch of German graduate students who thought that "Young Hegelians" might be a good name for them. He then recounted, "Being German, I tended to play a very physical game. I kept getting in trouble with the refs..."
"A ha! I thought I remembered you!"
It was even more fun to imagine that the man I was now dining so civilly with in a nice little restaurant half a world away I'd once given a yellow card to...
So let this be a lesson to you all: never antagonize your ref. You never know when or where you'll see her again...