Esse Baharmast to Deliver Keynote Address at TSSA Awards Dinner

National Soccer Hall of Famer Esse Baharmast poses with an image of a famous World Cup call that he made as a referee.

The Tennessee State Soccer Association (TSSA) announced today that National Soccer Hall of Fame member Esse Baharmast will be delivering the keynote address at the TSSA Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, February 3rd.

“I have had the opportunity to hear Esse speak on several occasions. He is a perfect example of our TSSA Mission Statement,” said Hans Hobson, Chief Operating Officer of the Tennessee State Soccer Association. “He has led, served and inspired more referees over the years than we can count.”

Baharmast, who was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2022, has officiated at multiple FIFA World Cups and at the Olympic Games. At the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, the former FIFA international referee awarded a late penalty to Norway against Brazil, a decision that was selected by Referee Magazine as one of the “Best 18 Calls of All Time.” He became the Director of Officials for US Soccer later that year.

“It is an incredible honor for me to be with my soccer family at the TSSA Awards Dinner,” said Baharmast. “This is a great occasion to be with wonderful friends and discuss soccer and refereeing, which is a lifelong passion of mine. I look forward to being at this great event.”

Not surprisingly, Baharmast has received a great deal of accolades throughout his career. The National Association of Sports Officials honored him with the Gold Whistle, which is its most prestigious award. The National Soccer Hall of Famer was also selected as the recipient of the Werner Fricker Builder Award in 2019, the highest honor of the US Soccer Federation. The career of Baharmast has stretched across multiple professional leagues, first beginning in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and later being chosen as the referee for the inaugural Major League Soccer (MLS) match on April 6, 1996. He then officiated the first MLS Cup, and he has also refereed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final and the A-League Championship (now United Soccer League). Additionally, he has served as a member of the CONCACAF Referees Committee.

Later in his career, Baharmast accepted a position as the Director of Referees for the Colorado Soccer Association. Further, he has also conducted many years of work as a FIFA Technical Instructor.

“What an amazing honor it is to have Esse speaking at our Awards Dinner, as well as leading our Advanced Referee Clinic on Saturday and meeting with our Referee Academy on Sunday,” said Don Eubank, TSSA State Referee Administrator. “To think, just over a month ago, he was leading some of the best referees in the world from afar while they worked at the World Cup in Qatar, and soon he will be leading ours.”

Each year, the Tennessee State Soccer Association hosts its Annual Awards Dinner, where players, teams, coaches, referees and volunteers are recognized for outstanding performances and contributions to youth soccer in the state. Following the TSSA Annual Awards Dinner, the Tennessee State Soccer Association will conduct its 2023 Annual General Meeting on Saturday, where it will host member leagues, member clubs, partners and key decision makers. At the annual gathering, TSSA membership will receive program updates and hear from candidates who are running for positions within its Board of Directors.

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