By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
September 26, 2017-Nearly a decade ago, Robert Sibiga was confronted with the prospect of not being able to play soccer anymore at a high level after tearing both his ACL and knee meniscus.
“So I decided to try staying on the field at a different capacity and became a certified high school referee,” Robert explained.
A good break for the Carmel resident came when senior referee administrator Enrico Romano spotted him officiating high school games in 2009, he realized Robert’s great potential and encouraged him to also ref under the US Soccer umbrella. And with Robert’s immense ability and work ethic, he quickly climbed up the officiating ladder which included starting out refereeing games in the local East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), then US Youth Soccer’s national championships in 2010 and 2011. Robert received the Jose Vargas Award as the top ref in Eastern New York four years ago.
“I have been working extremely hard and went to every possible tournament in the United States to gain experience,” Robert said. “It worked for me but the sacrifice was great, much bigger than people would imagine.”
Major League Soccer photo of Robert Sibiga refereeing NYCFC-Seattle Sounders at Yankee Stadium. Maybe Robert officiated Jack Harrison in foreground previously as the NYCFC midfielder played as a teen in Eastern New York.
He made it to the big show of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2014, becoming the third MLS referee to hail from the Polish youth club Stal Stalowa Wola, following in the footsteps of Janusz Weselak and Alex Prus. Robert has had many memorable moments on the soccer field and started listing them.
“First Development Academy Finals in 2011 in Milwaukee, first NCAA Final Four in 2013 in San Antonio, first MLS game as a 4th official in Dallas in 2014, first MLS middle in 2015 in Columbus and first MLS playoff match last year in Montreal,” Robert stated. “Each achievement brings special moments. I also love meeting players at the youth and college levels who then become professional stars. Meeting and becoming friends with guys like Matt Miazga when he was 15 at the DA Finals in Houston in 2012, who today is under contract with Chelsea. Being on the pitch with the likes of Villa, Pirlo, Kaka, Giovinco, Bradley and Altidore makes you feel proud of the privilege to ref in MLS.”
Robert is enjoying the current MLS season and has already eclipsed his tally of games from last year. After three ref assignments in 2015 and 19 last season, he is above 20 MLS games refereed in 2017 and was given a full-time referee contract on August 1 so he will put aside his real estate career for now.
“It is virtually impossible to find time for another job once you become a full-time official. Every day training, three-day camps twice a week, games every weekend and the travel associated with it,” Robert explained. “It is very much thanks to my supportive wife Magda and kids that I am able to follow my dreams of working in MLS as a full-time PRO official. Without the support at home, there is no way to make it and to maintain this extremely demanding and time-consuming profession. My family is the foundation my career is built on and my anchor to stay humble and appreciate every day.”
Although there are many demands on his time, Robert tries to help any way he can in mentoring young officials by arranging meetings, answering phone calls, texts, etc. Just as was done for him nearly a decade ago by Enrico Romano, who said, “"Robert is the best! When I think of him, I think of humility, integrity and a sense of responsibility plus he is very involved in the training of our referees. Eastern New York and the Hudson Valley Soccer Referees Association are very fortunate to have him.”
State Referee Administrator (SRA) Klaus Mueller, in charge of all refs in Eastern New York, echoed those comments, “Robert made it to PRO as a referee through hard work and never giving up. He has always been there to help any referee who asked for or needed assistance.”
“I am very proud to represent Eastern New York in everything I do,” Robert concluded. “I referee every game as if it’s my last one and I hope that we have more referees from New York officiating at the highest level.”
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.