He was 15 at the time. Julius Martenstein played football himself, but that wasn’t enough for Cölber. “I also wanted to have a different perspective,” says the 30-year-old, looking back. So he signed up for a newcomer’s course, passed the exams, was soon officiating his first youth games, had fun with them, and soon decided on the job as referee and against his own football career.
Martenstein has been a referee for half his life so far. Has he ever regretted it? He replies with a resolute “no”. A negative experience then comes to mind: “As a very young referee, I refereed at the midnight tournament in Cölbe. I had to show a player the red card. Suddenly there were a lot of people around me.” It was a unique experience for him – “fortunately”. And she “apparently didn’t affect him in the long term,” he says, at least not in a negative way.
An acquaintance, says Martenstein, later asked him about this situation: “He told me that he had noticed at the time how I had asserted myself and that he was therefore sure that I would make it into higher leagues one day. He made it: Martenstein has been working as an assistant referee in the 2nd Bundesliga since 2017.
Make a contribution to the club as a referee
Sergej Kohanov had played baseball with the Giessen Busters since 2013, and a year later he trained to be a referee. Why? “Someone has to do it. I’m making my contribution to the club,” says the 36-year-old, who is no longer active as a player but continues to be an umpire, as baseball calls it.
At baseball games in leagues in Hesse, two umpires are always on duty; one handles throws, shots and the home base, the other the perimeter. Who takes on which task is determined before the game. “We support each other, especially when it comes to tight decisions or players complaining,” reports Kohanov.
Florian Portsteffen also has to deal with complaints from time to time – but only rarely from active players: “Mostly it’s the parents who have something to complain about in youth games,” says the basketball referee, who used to referee up to 25 games per season had led, in the junior division up to the highest Hessian class.
Waiting for the first game in football
Due to time constraints, he now leads much less games: The 25-year-old plays in the second men’s team at BC Marburg, is responsible as a coach for the Oberliga women, among other things, and acts as a referee in the club, campaigning for others to “Whistle”, argues with his own experiences: “I tried it and had fun with it, otherwise I would not have continued. It’s nice to get recognition, it boosts self-confidence.”
Maik Decker still has to wait for his first assignment as an American football referee, but he is already part of the chain crew at the first division team Marburg Mercenaries, i.e. one of the helpers of the five referees on the field. The task is to move the ten-yard chain and the down marker.
Because of this, and also because of his general interest in football, Decker is quite familiar with the rules – with those that are used regularly, but by no means with all of them: “The set of rules is extremely extensive. I think hardly anyone has every eventuality in their heads.”
Referees deserve that
Most referees don’t get rich from the sport. “Money shouldn’t be the main motivation for becoming a referee,” says Florian Portsteffen, while also conceding: “Especially as a young person, you’re happy when you get something for pursuing your hobby.” As in other sports, there are even with basketball in the youth sector and in the lower classes only a small expense allowance, Portsteffen speaks of “pocket money”. The higher the league, the more you pay. In football, Bundesliga referees receive both an annual base salary and a fee per game, while top players from the first division earn a total of six-digit amounts per season. In the second division, the totals are a fair bit lower.
As an assistant in the second division, Julius Martenstein, for example, receives a four-digit basic salary of EUR 1,400 per game.
By Stefan Weisbrod