Four long-time North Texas Soccer referees earn high honors from state, National associations

Four North Texas Soccer Referees have been honored this year. Colby Jones and John Pozadzides were inducted into the North Texas Soccer Hall of Fame. Manuel Ortiz Sr. was selected as the USASA Region III Referee Lifetime Achievement Award winner, then won the USASA Referee Lifetime Achievement Award. Wolfram Blattner was inducted into the USASA Hall of Fame.

Colby Jones

In 1966, while in college, Colby had a summer job working for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. He was always looking for activities for children and with the World Cup about to start, decided to introduce the kids to soccer. He knew nothing about the sport. He started them playing on the park in the Pleasant Grove area where he was assigned. Soon he convinced the district manager into letting him form a league between the various summer park sites in his district. He hand-marked the practice field with a bag of marble dust and a measuring cup. To our knowledge, June 1966 is the earliest start of a youth soccer league in North Texas. Two of the boys who played in that league were brothers Gerald Mungioli and Tony Mungioli.

When he returned to college, he still wanted to play soccer. Since there were no leagues available, he organized an intramural league that included students and faculty in the fall of 1967. To our knowledge, that was the first organized soccer played at Texas Lutheran University.

After he graduated from college in 1968, he was hired full-time in February by the Park and Recreation Department and assigned to Beckley-Saner Park in South Oak Cliff. He immediately introduced soccer to the program. When the weather was bad. they were forced to come inside and play in the gym. That summer, he devised a miniature version of soccer. It was mostly for practice and fitness, but sometimes they played in a tournament format. To our knowledge, that was the first indoor soccer in North Texas. One of the players was Alex DeLeon, later president of the Oak Cliff Soccer Association.

He was a participant in the formation of the Oak Cliff Junior Soccer League, later renamed the Oak Cliff Soccer Association. It was organized at Beckley-Saner Recreation Center, where he was working. Colby was elected as its first Vice President and later served as President. He was able to convince the park department to mark out a new soccer field. Others involved included Bert and Mary Warner.

Colby began to look for a team for himself and was told of one that used to practice at Beckley-Saner but had moved to another park. He hunted them down and was allowed to join their practice. After practice, they invited him to join their team. Colby had never played on a team before. The team was Dallas International, a significant name in that other teams were named for various countries and ethnic groups. The team later changed its name to the Dallas Rangers and became a powerful force in North Texas amateur soccer, winning several state championships. The Dallas Tornado used them as fodder for some of their practice games. One season, the Rangers went undefeated and untied. By his own admission, Jones was a mediocre player, but had enough athleticism to recover from his mistakes and was selected as a league all-star and team MVP. Over the years, he played every position on the field, even goalkeeper. Among others involved with the team were Bob Evans, David Moreno, Stu Mutt and Bob McGlashan.

He was transferred to Skyline Recreation Center, a brand-new center in Lake Highlands, in late May 1971. Again, Colby immediately introduced soccer to the program. Later that year, he hosted several meetings at the recreation center to form the Lake Highlands Soccer Association (at that time, teams were playing in the Richardson Soccer Association). He was elected the first League Commissioner. They never had enough referees, so some Saturdays he would referee the entire day. Again, he was able to convince the park department to create a new soccer field. The LHSA later honored the first President, Ed Snuggs, and Colby with Lifetime Membership awards.

Included in the recreation center sign-ups for soccer were three young girls. This was very unusual at the time. Soccer was not a “girls” sport; this was pre-Title IX. Although he received numerous complaints — some very antagonizing — from both city personnel and citizens, he saw no harm in it and did not want to turn those eager children away. Instead of arguing with the detractors, he basically ignored them and allowed the girls to play with the boys. The world did not come to an end and interest quickly grew to where they had enough girls to provide them with their own programs. One of the girls playing with/against the boys was Patti Wren.

With considerable assistance from Ron Newman and other members of the Dallas Tornado, Colby joined other volunteers to organize the first high school soccer program in North Texas under the direction of John Chapman. They experienced considerable negativity from school district athletic administrators and football coaches. Colby worked across the street from Lake Highlands High School and volunteered to coach its first team. They invited all boys interested to come to the recreation center after school. Sixty-three showed up. Colby asked who had played soccer before. Not one hand was raised! They often did not have officials and the coaches sometimes had to alternate halves refereeing. They practiced in a vacant field behind the tennis courts with the ball sometimes bouncing over the fence into an adjacent cow pasture. Players bought their own uniforms and Colby silk-screened the team logo and numbers on the shirts. Eventually he was able to talk RISD into putting up goal posts and marking lines in that vacant field. After two seasons, the school district decided to make soccer an official school sport and since he was not an RISD employee, they paid the wrestling coach to take over.

Although Colby had been refereeing since 1966, he was not licensed to do so. When “USSFA” and North Texas became better organized and offered referee clinics, he was never able to attend because he worked nights and weekends. To alleviate the problem, in 1972 he talked Ron Griffith into conducting a class at the recreation center. Colby “highly encouraged” his high school soccer team members to take the course. He took it with them and finally earned his certification. He then “highly encouraged” those who had passed the course to begin refereeing for LHSA. They were greatly needed, did an exceptional job and appreciated the extra spending money.

The recreation center gym was often used for practice by the high school team, the Dallas Rangers and even the Dallas Tornado. During one afternoon Tornado practice, Colby had to make them temporarily leave the court for a scheduled pre-school soccer class. The professional players waited dutifully in the stands and robustly cheered the kids throughout. The moms were especially impressed.

As the only place to play indoor soccer, Colby hosted an open night. Each week, he formed teams from those who showed up and played a round-robin schedule. He kept won-loss-tied records for individuals, not for teams. After several weeks, he split the top players into two teams and played a “championship” game. Don Mathis later started a very good indoor soccer program at Eastfield College.

As an extension of the soccer program at the recreation center, Colby organized the first indoor soccer tournament in North Texas in January 1975, with 24 teams in Under-10 and Under-12 boys and girls’ divisions. Players included Billy Burnett, Patti Wren and Amy Machin. The following December, he held an Under-16 boys tournament with six teams. Among those first players were brothers David and Darcy Easterling and David and Michael Linenberger. He charged the participants $1 per person in order to give the winners a trophy. Games were played on the hardwood surface of the recreation center gym. They had no printed rules. Indoor rules gradually evolved with the competition. They first played with a slightly under-inflated ball until they adopted a felt-covered, yellow “tennis” ball. In a few short years the tournament grew into a citywide event with 344 teams, some from as far away as El Paso, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Colby drew up all the tournament brackets and schedules. For several years, he did all the referee assigning, calling on friends to “do me a favor.” They worked for free. He was smart enough to eventually hand that over to an assignor. With support from the Dallas Sidekicks, they were able to play their championship games at Reunion Arena and included a game ticket for every player in the tournament. Coincidentally, for several years the Sidekicks would set a new attendance record on the day of his tournament finals.

Staff from City Hall wanted him to increase the fees so that the city could make more money. He refused. He continued to base the fee on a minimum number of teams to cover actual expenses. Because he always had many more teams than the minimum, there was usually plenty of money left over, which was then shared with the other recreation centers, based on the number of games they hosted. Eventually, Harold Doyle and other area businessmen saw the opportunities in indoor soccer and asked him to join them as the consultant for the planning of the first North Texas facility, located in Richardson. With the proliferation of private indoor facilities, the interest in gym soccer faded and the tournament was ended after 1993.

As the participation of youth in indoor soccer grew into the thousands, he approached North Texas about the possibility of sanctioning. At first they were not interested. After coaches began using the indoor tournament to circumvent recruiting rules, North Texas began showing greater interest and eventually sanctioned indoor play. To our knowledge, it was the first state association to do so. Bob Black was selected as indoor commissioner.

As indoor facilities then began to circumvent referee certification requirements, North Texas took an interest in that, too, and selected Colby as the Director of Indoor Referees. He began to conduct annual training sessions and certification clinics throughout the state and North Texas became the first association to certify its indoor referees. Colby required referees to first pass the outdoor clinic before taking the supplemental indoor version. He wrote, printed and provided the first Indoor Rules to referees and facilities.

Not only was there resistance from school coaches and administrators, he faced opposition from park personnel. Departments were reluctant to provide space for fields and few of those were maintained properly, if at all. He was scheduled to give a soccer presentation at a TRAPS (Texas Recreation and Parks Society) conference but had to send a non-soccer co-worker in his place due to a sudden conflict. He came back shell-shocked from the attacks by soccer-haters. One breakthrough was getting TAAF (Texas Amateur Athletic Association), made up of park and recreation departments throughout Texas, to officially recognize soccer. Colby was a party to those discussions and served as Soccer Commissioner.

Helping him conduct the state tournament in 1980 were Janie Fields and Pat Parker. In 1991, the TAAF-associated “Pepsi Games of Texas” included indoor soccer. He served as tournament coordinator. By this time, soccer in Texas didn’t need that recognition, but it was good to finally be quasi-accepted.

Playing in the first division did not allow him to referee in that division, thus limiting the number and quality of assessments needed to advance. After he quit playing, it took him about a year to advance to the State level (1978), three years to reach State 1 (1982) and then two more years to make it to National (1984). In the meantime, he had been accepted by the North American Soccer League (NASL) as a Linesman (Assistant Referee) and was able to travel around the country to work games. Colby said his mentor when joining the professional ranks was Manuel Ortiz, and he admits he owes a lot to him.

Advancing up in the ranks on a parallel track was John Pozadzides. By the time Colby made it to National 1 (1989), the NASL had folded and there were just a few games to be shared with other highly qualified referees throughout the country. He chose to retire from the National Program and was awarded an Emeritus status (1990) and lifetime membership. Before leaving the program, he had the opportunity to officiate as an Assistant Referee in a Class A International Match for Angelo Bratsis in the United States vs. Ecuador game, 1988. When professional indoor returned to Dallas, he was asked to join the referee ranks, and officiated those games until the Sidekicks folded.

Colby was selected to officiate at the state high school tournament in 1988 and again in 1989, doing the boys final in 1989. Whether high school or Federation competitions, North Texas teams were almost always in tournament finals, thus eliminating North Texas referees from doing the championships.

As an adjunct to the City of Dallas Gang Prevention Unit, an inner-city youth soccer program was initiated. Colby was soon asked to coordinate the program. With the support and sponsorship of M&M Mars and hard work by park and recreation staff, Snickers CitySoccer registration grew to 3,000 mostly minority participants, with almost half coming from African-American communities. North Texas partnered with the City to provide players with insurance. The program supplemented the fall and spring leagues with three major events. The Tournament of Champions, for division winners, was held in November. The huge Mayor’s Cup, in May, was open to all CitySoccer teams. The Street Soccer Festival, in January, was an indoor tournament open to all North Texas teams and filled up a noisy Automobile Building at Fair Park with non-stop action on eight, side-by-side fields. In addition to games and tournaments, he also hosted an annual Soccer Summit at Winfrey Point to outline the various benefits and needs of inner-city soccer programs. Of the many people helping with the program were Larry Yaffa, Carolyn Stewart and Doc Lawson.

In 2004, U.S. Soccer decided to publish a book of the laws of the game that would be easy for players, coaches and parents to read. It was titled, “Laws Of The Game Made Easy.” Dan Heldman was asked to write the text and Colby was asked to provide the illustrations. Dick Triche had the task of putting it all together under the direction of Alfred Kleinitis. It was an instant success and has been updated each year. Since then he has also created illustrations for other federation books, including “Advice To Referees,” “Guide To Procedures” and “Offside Made Easy.” Colby has also provided cartoons and illustrations for The Pitch.

When indoor soccer interest grew enough for Francisco Marcos to establish the Southwest Indoor Soccer League (SISL), Colby was one of several who were there on the ground floor. In one championship game in Austin, Colby and Manuel Ortiz, Jr., handed out 28 time penalties! And there was NO penalty box. All those players crowded into the scorekeeper’s box along with the poor Assistant Referee, Mike Jones, who somehow managed to keep the peace.

When Ron Griffith started the Dallas Cup, Colby and other referees were honored to work the games for free. One Dallas Cup he refereed, at Moss Park, featured a team from Lagos, Nigeria. He was told the game was being recorded for later viewing on Nigerian national TV. The goalkeeper for that team was a tall, lanky kid later to be known around the NBA as Hakeem Olajuwon.

He was on the board of LHSA when they discussed and eventually approved the formation of the Solar Soccer Club.

When the Cotton Bowl was renovated in order to host its portion of the 1994 World Cup, he had the privilege of playing in the first game on the new grass surface. The co-ed contest pitted employees of two City departments.

In the late 1980s, the Dallas Morning News sponsored an athletic competition called the Jockathon. Colby was asked to come up with a soccer component. He dubbed it the Soccer Quick Kick. Kathy Phillips Castro valiantly competed, but was beat out by Patty Harrell who won a trip to the Olympics. He repeated that contest again with corporate challenges in fund-raising events for cystic fibrosis research.

Colby joined many others in North Texas in volunteering for World Cup ‘94, serving in three areas. Prior to the Cup, he gave speeches and educational talks around north Texas. During the tournament, he helped transport arriving/departing referees, and on game days at the Cotton Bowl, he worked in an information booth near the entrance, learning to give gate directions in different languages.

In 1996, when Major League Soccer came to Dallas in the form of the Dallas Burn, he volunteered as a referee coordinator, transporting referees to and from the games and assisting them with game-day duties. At times, he was called upon to act as the “red cap” for the media and fed important game information to the PA announcer.

Colby has maintained his referee registration as well as that of instructor, assessor and indoor referee. Each season, he offers mentoring assessments with the Chamber Boys Classic League and official assessments of UIL sanctioned high school referees, and works occasionally on association assessor days.

Some of the professional leagues he has officiated for include: American Soccer League (ASL), United Soccer League (USL), North American Soccer League (NASL), Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), Southwest Indoor Soccer League (SISL), Southwest Independent Soccer League (SISL), United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL), Continental Indoor Soccer League (CISL), Major Soccer League (MSL), World Indoor Soccer League (WISL) and Premier Soccer Alliance (PSA).

Some of the associations he was a part of are: Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO), Texas Interscholastic Soccer Officials (TISO), Southwest Soccer Officials Association (SSOA), National Federation Interscholastic Officials Association (NFIOA), National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA), North Texas Soccer Referees Society (NTSRS), Texas Amateur Athletic Federation (TAAF), University Interscholastic League (UIL).

John Nickolas Pozadzides, Sr., National One Emeritus Referee

Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in June 1944, I attended elementary and high school education in Greece, where I learned and played soccer as a young player. I then came to the United States and attended Auburn University from December 1963 to August 1969, earning a BS degree in physics, with a minor in electrical engineering. I have been employed by Texas Instruments for 31 years, initially as an engineer and later as New Products Development Senior Engineering Manager. I’ve been married to Tilda Fay Marshall Pozadzides for 15 years, and have two sons, John, Jr., and Kirk Pozadzides.

It all started when I lost a $20 bet offered by the then-President of the North Texas Referee Committee, Wes Whitlock, who happened to be refereeing a game in which I was player. I was screaming that, "I was not offside, because I was even with the last defender!" Wes offered $20 if he was wrong; if he was right, I had to take a referee clinic in Richardson to "learn the rules,” because I was such a pain to all referees with my mouth. I lost the bet, and the rest is history.

I started refereeing in 1973 and I am still refereeing at the young age of 68-and-one-half years! Over the years, I have been promoted to Youth 1, State 2, State 1, National 2 and, in early 1980s, to National 1 Referee. I have been serving the NTSSA Referees Group as State Referee Instructor (1979), State Referee Assessor (1980) and as State Referee Administrator (1986) for many years. I had the pleasure to promote a number of referees to State and National levels.

Some of the highlights of my refereeing career are as follows:

  • Officiated in over 17,000 soccer games (both Indoor, outdoor, middles and lines).
  • Officiated in numerous Southern States Regional Competitions. In one, I was chosen by State of Oklahoma team personnel to officiate the final (U16 Boys) between North Texas and Oklahoma!
  • Officiated (along with Bob Evans) in the first State High School Finals in Austin.
  • Officiated many Men's Premier League Championships (On my office wall at home I can stare at least 20 plaques)
  • Officiated a number of youth international games during Dallas Cup competitions at Lake Highlands. (As a referee, of course; in one of those games having Abraham Klein as one of my linesmen!)
  • Officiated many, many college games; twice the referee at the NAIA Championships (1987/1988); middle referee at the 1990 NCAA Final Four (Tampa, Fla.), featuring UCLA vs. North Carolina State.
  • Officiated at the Olympic Team Tryout Tournament in Baton Rouge, La., refereeing the final game.
  • Officiated in both the NASL and ASL professional leagues in the ‘70s and ‘80s with multiple playoff referee assignments in the ASL and as a linesman in one NASL Championship (Chicago, Ill.).
  • Officiated in the MISL Indoor League for a number of seasons.
  • Had the honor to referee (along with Ed Bellion) in an Ex-Tornado/FC Dallas Old-Timers game at Frisco FC Dallas Stadium, when Psifidis, a well known ex-player and coach (who I have known since he was playing professional ball in Greece in the ‘60s) told me at the end of the game that he was surprised "I could still pass as a referee.” This was a few years ago, me still in my 60s.

Manuel Ortiz Sr.

Manuel Ortiz started playing organized adult soccer at the age of 16 in Mexico, and moved to the U.S. in 1956 to Los Angeles, Calif., where he played in two different leagues: California Soccer League and Greater Los Angeles Soccer League.

In 1965, he retired from playing soccer and took the referees clinic sponsored by the California South State Association. Once he completed the course, he registered with the U.S. Soccer Federation the same year, then joined CAFLA (Colegio Arbitros De Futbol Los Angeles) where he was a member until moving to Garland, Texas, in 1975.

Ortiz refereed in three different leagues in Los Angeles: California Soccer League, Greater Los Angeles Soccer League and the Continental Soccer League (Semi-Pro League). In 1967, he was chosen to bean assistant referee in one of the first professional leagues in the U.S., the United Soccer Association. The league only lasted one year, but Ortiz returned to the professional ranks in 1973 when N.A.S.L. (North American Soccer League) re-appeared nationally, staying in the league until it folded in 1984. During his time in the N.A.S.L., Ortiz worked his way up from assistant referee to a head referee, reaching that achievement in 1980.

In L.A., from 1965 to 1975, Ortiz refereed in the local leagues, including three first-division finals in the California Soccer League. During the same time period in Southern California, Ortiz participated as an assistant and referee on games with numerous professional teams, including Sunderland (England), Wolverhampton (England), Manchester United (England), West Ham United (England), Aberdeen (Scotland), Bayern Munich (Germany), Benfica (Portugal), Boca Juniors (Argentina), Emelec (Ecuador), Guadalajara (Mexico), America (Mexico), Atlante (Mexico) and the National Teams of Poland and Mexico.

Ortiz participated in the first professional referee seminar in Mexico City in 1972, representing the U.S. Federation. He has been in Texas for the last 37 years and has been involved as an instructor, referee, assigner, and assessor. Highlights as a referee include refereeing four first-division finals in the North Texas Premier Soccer League and three first-division finals in the Dallas Soccer Association. He participated in the very first Dallas Cup, all the way up to the 33rd year of the Cup.

Since moving to Texas and during the years of N.A.S.L., Ortiz has refereed two Trans-Atlantic Cups (Cosmos [U.S.] vs. Napoli [Italy] and Cosmos vs. Fiorentina [Italy]), two quarter-finals (San Diego vs. Chicago and San Diego vs. Portland), two semi-finals (Toronto vs. Vancouver and California Surf vs. Fort Lauderdale) and three exhibition games (Dallas Tornado vs. Guadalajara, Dallas Tornado vs. Monterrey and Dallas Tornado vs. Universidad of Guadalajara [Tecos]).

As an instructor, Ortiz taught the basic referee clinics in both English and Spanish, was the referee instructor for the Plano International Soccer League for four years, and also instructed ODP referees in 2011 and 2012 in Alabama. As an assessor, he worked for both the Classic League and the North Texas State Association. As a National assessor, he worked in different regional tournaments.

Ortiz also refereed indoor soccer, including N.A.S.L. and M.I.S.L., and refereed two finals in N.A.S.L., in 1982 (San Diego vs. Tampa Bay) and 1983 (San Diego vs. Cosmos). Ortiz refereed in the M.I.S.L. until the Dallas Sidekicks closed their doors, also refereed locally in different indoor facilities.

He has also refereed college games from 1970 until the present, with highlights including refereeing the N.A.I.A. final in Huntsville, Ala. — the first final with the three-referee system. He also refereed a semi-final in the NCAA Final Four at Rutgers University in New Jersey (1990), and was named to the Hall of Fame in 2011 in the 36th Annual NISOA Convention.

Wolfram Blattner

Wolfram Blattner was born Sept. 28, 1940 in Germany. A referee since 1972, Wolfram succeeded in attaining the level of national referee before going emeritus. As a former senior linesman in the North American Soccer League, he took his experience and became an instructor and assessor. He reached the level of national assessor and was assigned as a stadium observer in Major League Soccer as an MLS assessor.

North Texas Soccer was fortunate to have Wolfram at its service. He served as North Texas Soccer State Director of Instruction on the Referee Committee and as the Chairman of the Referee Committee from 1982-86. He also served as the USASA Region III Chairman from 1990-96 and the USASA National Referee Chairman from 1996-2001. Wolfram represented USASA on the US Soccer National Referee Committee from 1991-2000.

When Wolfram wasn’t busy refereeing, assessing, instructing, assigning or doing the administrative duties of his positions, he also mentored referees, helping them obtain their goals as state referees, national referees and MLS referees.

Wolfram attended the University of Wurzburg and the University of Mainz, earning his degree in meteorology. In 1968, he received a NATO scholarship to the Air Force Cambridge Laboratories in Boston, Mass. Wolfram was the Director of Atmospheric Optics for Radiation Research Association, where he worked from 1969 to 1982. In 1982, he started a new job for Lockheed Martin as a Senior Engineering Specialist. He worked for Lockheed Martin until he retired in 2006.

In 2009, he co-founded the North Texas Prostate Cancer Coalition. He is currently president of this organization, and he and his wife, Bruni, also serve as counselors. Wolfram was inducted into the North Texas Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012. He also was the recipient of the USASA Region III Referee Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Wolfram and Bruni were married Oct. 31, 1969. They currently live in Weatherford, Tex. Their son and his family live in Wichita. Kans.

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