Ian Kafka is a passionate football fan, who also happens to be an umpire. Like many others, he began by playing the game before becoming an umpire but since the day he was given the whistle, he’s been in the middle of the action ever since.
“I was playing for Birmingham University. We were due to have a game against Oxford University, but it was raining on the day of the game. The powers that be cancelled the booked pitches, but Oxford were already on their way. Our organised umpire’s spouse had seen Birmingham had cancelled all fixtures that day he was whisked off for a day with her! We ended up having to cone out an oval at a local park and each team took turns to umpire quarters. I was thrown the whistle when it was our turn and haven’t looked back since,” he said.
Now a regular umpire in the AFL London league, Ian has experienced plenty since that game against Oxford.
Having umpired since 2013, Ian is into his sixth year on the field and has umpired across Europe, as well as spending a week umpiring at the US Nationals in San Diego back in 2017.
He has umpired at numerous European competitions, such as the Euro Cup, European Championships and the Champions League.
Back in England, he was one of the main umpires in this year’s inaugural National University League, where he umpired both the men’s and women’s Grand Finals.
Ian was again involved at this year’s Champions League in Amsterdam, his favourite place that he has umpired in Europe.
“Amsterdam [favourite place to have umpired at in Europe] for the Champions League; it’s such a nice venue and pitch 1 at the end of the day is always a great feeling with the crowd in the terrace making plenty of noise,” he said.
Despite all these great experiences on the field around Europe and the US, the match that stands out to Ian is a game he umpired back in 2014 between the European Legion and an AIS Under 18 side in Harrow.
“It was a unique chance to share the pitch with players who I now watch weekly on the Watch AFL app,” Ian said.
Some of those players that Ian was fortunate enough to umpire included Callum Mills, Ryan Burton, Darcy Parish, Jacob Weitering, Jake Lever, Darcy Moore, and Isaac Heeney, just to name a few.
Looking forward, Ian has put his hand up for the upcoming Euro Cup in Sweden in June as well as the European Championships in his home city of London in October. His goal for next year is to umpire at the 2020 International Cup in Australia.
“I’ve stuck my hand up for both the upcoming AFL Europe tournaments this year, and IC is 100% on my radar.” he said.
From taking turns with his teammates as an umpire at a university game to now aiming to umpire at the AFL International Cup in Australia, Ian has an extensive list of umpiring achievements. He plans to continue growing that list and is certainly in a great position to do so with plenty of umpiring experience.