Shepparton’s Jake Keating was given the ultimatum to keep playing the game he loves for the Goulburn Valley Suns or give it up to continue referring soccer.
Keating chose the latter.
Now only a few years on from that decision, the 22-year-old has been hand-picked by Australian Football Skool to referee at the world’s largest international youth soccer tournament, Gothia Cup.
Keating, who will have an all-expenses trip paid to China, will be one of several referees managing 1700 teams from 80 different countries.
With more than 4500 games expected to take place on 110 pitches, Keating is nervous and excited about the opportunity to test himself overseas.
‘‘It was a buzz when I found out I was going,’’ Keating said.
‘‘Initially, I was supposed to pick two referees from the AFS tournament in Shepparton and then I got told that I would be going with them too.
‘‘It is going to be a different experience, but one that I am looking forward to.’’
Keating took up refereeing as part of the Shepparton Junior Soccer Association’s training program as a way to work, with his mum demanding that as 14-year-old he find a job.
‘‘I didn’t want to work, so I thought I might as well do this,’’ Keating said.
‘‘Now after all this time, refereeing local league and the National Premier League I never thought I would be in this position.’’
The budding talent is also in charge of the Goulburn Valley branch for Football Federation Victoria’s referees and later this month will become only one of six referees in Victoria appointed to officiate the National Youth League.
‘‘It has all happened pretty quickly to be honest, and it’s something that I am taking on board,’’ Keating said.
‘‘When I was given the ultimatum to choose one or the other I saw there was more of a future with refereeing and I personally feel it has helped me grow as a person.
‘‘You are often in complex situations where you have to think on your feet, you cop abuse here and there, but it is not too bad — it all happens with raw emotion and I don’t really take offence to it.’’