Elias Bazakos Named to the FIFA List of Referees for 2012
This past January, Minnesota’s Elias Bazakos reached the highest level of officiating by becoming the seventh US center referee to be named to the FIFA Men’s Referees List.
Elias began his career as a referee at the age of 9. Spending his early years officiating with his father Mike and his younger brother Fotis, Elias continued working his way up through the levels of Minnesota youth soccer until he officiated his first professional soccer game as an assistant referee (AR) in 1994. Elias’s first pro game as a center ref came unexpectedly at a Minnesota Thunder game when he was 21. Originally assigned as the senior AR, Elias was promoted when the center referee was unable to make it to the game.
In 2000 Elias became a national referee and consistently officiated professional soccer games, including the 2001 Division 3 Professional Championship game. The next year Elias moved up to refereeing in the MLS, but after one season he had to take a four-year sabbatical while he completed his medical residency. Elias returned to the MLS in 2006, but was once again limited to a single season because of an ACL tear. After a year of rehabilitation and a season in the USL, Elias returned to the MLS once again in 2010.
This past year was a very successful year of refereeing for Elias. He received a nomination from the National Referee Committee for a promotion to the FIFA List for 2012. Selection for the FIFA List is based on performance in the top level of soccer in an individual’s home country. “Nothing in life is guaranteed, and this is no different,” said Elias. “We have to prove ourselves every game and hold ourselves consistently to the highest level of performance.”
In order to make the list a referee must also be at least 25 years old and must retire from the list at the age of 45. Once nominated by the National Referee Committee, FIFA has the final approval.
After being approved for the FIFA list, Elias is now eligible to officiate competitions ranging from International Friendlies in the US to World Cup matches. Selection for these matches is based on prior performance and experience and is assigned by US Soccer, CONCACAF, or FIFA depending on the level of competition. Since a referee is not typically eligible to officiate outside of their confederation or home professional league, Elias won’t be seen in UEFA Champions League or Serie A games, but he may show up during the CONCACAF Champions League, Olympic Qualifiers, or World Cup Qualifiers this summer.
Elias is also committed to the development of officiating in Minnesota. Since he began refereeing he has been involved in the Minnesota FIFA Club, a group of elite referees dedicated to becoming the best referees in the country. Along with his friends and colleagues, including his father and brother, Elias is using his experience and knowledge to improve the next generation of Minnesota referees. “For years I was a member,” said Elias, “now I am one of the group leaders, bringing along a new group of young referees with high abilities and aspirations.”