21 Jun 2012
Mathieu Raynal from Perpignan, the famous rugby city down on the Spanish border, is a sports teacher who has been a referee since he was 20. Now he is one of the eight referees at the Junior World Championship, a man near the top of the refereeing world.
Being from Perpignan means that he is a Catalan, an identity that flows over =into Cataluña in Spain, a more militant part of the Catalans than the French side where the home language of modern Catalans is French and conversation in Catalan mainly confined to the older generation. It is much the same with the Basques on the Atlantic seaboard. Apart from speaking French and Catalan, Mathieu's English is fluent.
Short though it was, Mathieu's playing career was not insignificant. "I played rugby for Perpignan USAP, and I was part of the successful Perpignan team in 1998 which won the junior championships in France. Then I played for the University of Perpignan in 2001 and participated in their rugby structures as I was privileged to represent their first team."
In 2000 Mathieu joined his local referees' society, Pays Catalan. The reason for refereeing? "I had a team-mate who was a player (a hooker). We studied in the same university and we played for the same club and there was a lot of travelling, approximately 100km every day for training but I wanted to focus on my studies and I decided to start refereeing as I wanted to stay in the rugby environment and be part of the sport."
The young referee - he is 30 now - made progress. "I progressed to Federal Divisions which led me to achieving my goals and being promoted to Federal Division 2 and 1. Then I was promoted to the Pro D2, the second division of professional rugby in France, and then got to the top league in France which is the top 14 panel. My first game in the professional division was in 2006 when I refereed Grenoble vs Toulon's. Presently I am refereeing in the Top 14 and the European Cup." He has refereed a Test - Georgia vs Russia in the European Nations Cup - and many age-group tournaments, including the 2011 Junior World Championship in Italy.
Highlights? "My highlight to date is Toulouse vs Clermont in the Top 14 and the quarterfinal of the Top 14 Toulon's vs Racing-Métro and also the 2012 Under-20 Junior World Cup, which is an exceptional tournament and I have really enjoyed it."
Refereeing philosophy: "Without the laws you cannot have a game but for my part the game will always be above the laws."
Clearly, this cheerful young man enjoys refereeing and all that goes with it. "I enjoy travelling, meeting new people, making friendships and developing as a person holistically."