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Yoel Delgado on the Los Compadres football pitch, in Marbella. Josele
Yoel Delgado, Andalucía's youngest football referee
Football

Yoel Delgado, Andalucía's youngest football referee

The boy, from Marbella, signed up for a foundation course in November, just one day after his 12th birthday, and has already overseen two matches

Nacho Carmona

Marbella

Friday, 16 February 2024, 14:29

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Yoel Delgada, from Marbella, was only born in 2011, but can already attest to what goes on at the heart of the football pitch. He makes quick decisions, writes up the match report, and even gets paid for his work. Shortly after turning 12, the minimum age for this job, he has already achieved his goals, which are quite different to those of his peers. In fact, he barely had time to blow out his candles before his mum, Sonia Carrio, signed him up the following day. From that moment onwards, he became Andalucía's youngest referee.

Always with her son's best interests at heart, Sonia was initially opposed to Yoel refereeing, given his young age. "I don't like the atmosphere of football at all. Parents get riled up in the stands. They can't differentiate between adults and children," she explains.

"I tried to get him to referee for water polo, since he also plays this sport, but he was already clear about wanting to referee for football," she adds. "I couldn't do any more," she says, laughing. However, she rests assured in the protection measures in place for referees who have not yet turned 18, and who can identify as such by wearing a badge.

"In one of the matches that he refereed, one mum started shouting, saying that she couldn't yell at him because he was a child. I told her she shouldn't be yelling at anyone, anyway," she recalls.

Former goalkeeper

Yoel himself points out that he has always liked "being in charge and everyone doing things properly". He did not care very much for playing football, so he was often the goalkeeper when with his peers. "When I was with my friends I played as the goalkeeper, but I didn't fully enjoy it. That was when I discovered that I wanted to be a referee," he recounts. He made this decision a few years before signing up to a referee foundation course - by no means a common occurrence among children his age.

For the moment, he can only oversee matches played by those his own age or one year younger. He has already refereed two matches: one from the local girls' league, in the U13 category (his own), the British-San Pedro, and another from the Federación: the Marbellí-Benamiel U11 boys category. Although he is yet to hold up a red or yellow card, he has awarded his first penalty: the first important decision he would have to make. With the natural innocence of a child, he describes "being in charge" as the best part of being a referee, before responding with "I don't know," when asked about the worst. After a few moments, he found his answer: "That people protest a lot," although this does not seem to weigh on him at all. He states that he has no problem refereeing matches for children around his age.

He perfected his knowledge during his foundation course, going beyond the whistle and penalty cards to dive right into his most valued tool today: the rulebook. He thanks his two mentors, Ildefonso Cozar, his course teacher, and Ángel Carmona, a committed referee who trained him and went to all of his matches to closely follow his progress.

Totally independent

On entering the ground, Yoel puts things in order so that everything runs smoothly. He looks for the caretaker, prepares the match, and makes quick decisions. He has to not care about what the managers say because the decision is his at the end of the day. "He may or may not make a mistake, but he has to decide either way. He's growing up so fast," his mum says. He only knows to continue as a referee when he grows up . Aside from that (being in his first year of secondary school), he is unsure of what he wants to be in the future, like most children his age.

His role models

His head turns when he sees football on the television. Apart from looking at what the players are doing, he watches the referees. His role model is Munuera Montero, from Cordoba. "I like his gestures and the way he times the game," he explains. As a referee, he does it all. "If I were in a game with children older than me, I would prefer to be the assistant ref (or the linesman), but if not, I would like to be the main ref," he explains.

He had the opportunity to meet many of his role models at the latest Referee Gala in Andalucía. He was one of the event's most special guests. It was there that he met Medina Cantalejo, the president of the Referees Technical Committee of the Spanish Football Federation, as well as Mario Melero López, a senior referee, who is from Malaga, like him. Yoel's dream is to one day be like them and reach the First Division.

The minimum age for a referee varies according to each region. In Andalucía that number is 12. As such, Yoel Delgado is confirmed to be the youngest referee in our region, and one of the youngest in the whole country.

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