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2016-10-24 13:12:00 CET

More Than Sports: The secret lives of referees

The extensive activities of our beach volleyball referees

Drago Peslac has an admirable attitude towards life. He was once an engineer and earned a lot of money but, six years ago, the Croatian started working as a teacher. Now he gives lessons in computer science. The main reason for the change has been that his old job clashed too much with his passion: In the summer, Drago Peslac is a beach volleyball referee.

The 46-year-old is one of the good souls who officiate around about 3,000 matches on the FIVB World Tour each season. “It’s a feeling that money can’t buy,” he explains. 

Drago Preslac stopped working as engineer to follow his passion of being beach volleyball referee. Photocredit: FIVBDrago Preslac stopped working as engineer to follow his passion of being beach volleyball referee. Photocredit: FIVB

The men and women in the blue shirts and blue caps are there for the purpose of fairness, but did you ever wonder what they are doing in the off-season? Besides being teacher, Drago loves crafting on vintage vehicles or watching his birds. Drago has two parrots, and he likes to give them a free fly through the living room. During the season, he gets free flights himself, an accommodation and a daily allowance from the FIVB. That won’t pay the rent, but Drago says: “It gives me a different perspective of life.” He has worked as international referee since 2004. “Being a referee and working as a teacher is a little bit like having two different lives,” he says.

Drago in school, working as a teacher for computer science. Photocredit: Drago PeslacDrago in school, working as a teacher for computer science. Photocredit: Drago Peslac

Karner's Klagenfurt connection

“Sometimes I ask myself, why I am doing this?” Martin Karner admits. The 39-year-old has a full time job at A1. With his knowledge of information systems, he is responsible for the network planning of the mobile service provider. He uses four-and-a-half of the five weeks’ vacation he has per year to be a beach volleyball referee. He has officiated internationally since 2013. “I always had a distinctive sense of justice,” he says. “The moment when you stand on the Center Court in Klagenfurt and officiate the final, I still get goosebumps when I think of that.”

Martin loves officiating games on the center court. Photocredit: FIVBMartin loves officiating games on the center court. Photocredit: FIVB

During the off-season, Martin also works as a volleyball coach in Austria. “It’s funny to stand on the other side. I have to confess that I don’t often call the referees into question,” he laughs. Off-season is also time for Martin to go snowboarding. He doesn’t suffer from boredom, quite the opposite, but nevertheless, Martin is already looking forward to the next season. “This sport is too awesome; I love being part of it.”

During off-season Martin is a passionate snowboarder. Photocredit: Martin KarnerDuring off-season Martin is a passionate snowboarder. Photocredit: Martin Karner

Martin has been a player himself in the past, but had to stop because of injuries. “Being referee gives me the opportunity to still give something to the sport,” he says. That’s also how Drago thinks. “We help spread the word about beach volleyball,” he says. In 2011 he travelled to a FIVB Volleyball Cooperation Program in Togo to explain to the people how to build courts and arrange tournaments. “That was one of the most interesting experiences in my life,” he says. FIVB referees have lots of qualities. Find out more about them next week.

Drago with his group at the Volleyball Cooperation Program in Togo in 2011 Photocredit: Drago PeslacDrago with his group at the Volleyball Cooperation Program in Togo in 2011 Photocredit: Drago Peslac

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