PHILLY.com – Mark Geiger served as the referee of a marquee World Cup matchup Wednesday as Chile defeated Spain, 2-0, in Rio de Janeiro. Before Geiger was selected to officiate on soccer’s biggest stage, the resident of Beachwood, Ocean County, excelled in something else entirely. Geiger was an award-winning math teacher. An instructor at Lacey Township High School, Geiger won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching in 2009. He taught at all levels, from basic skills classes to Advanced Placement courses. “He was the best math teacher I’ve ever run into,” said William Zylinski, district supervisor and former principal at Lacey. But Geiger, 39, is also one of the best soccer referees. His experience includes the 2011 Under-20 World Cup final in Colombia, the 2012 Olympics in London, and 11 years in Major League Soccer. MLS named him referee of the year in 2011. In 2012, when the Professional Referee Organization offered Geiger a full-time, salaried officiating position that would give him a realistic shot at the 2014 World Cup, Geiger had to make a difficult decision. Taking the job would mean leaving teaching, choosing one passion over another. “He didn’t want to go,” said Steven Geiger, Mark’s brother, who also teaches math at Lacey. “But once the PRO started and he had that opportunity, he knew if he wanted to get to [the World Cup] he couldn’t do both things.” Mark Geiger, who was not allowed to speak to the media while working at the World Cup, ultimately took the officiating job and left Lacey in January 2013. The tough choice paid off: A year later, FIFA picked Geiger as one of 25 elite referees from around the globe – and the only one from the United States – to referee at the World Cup in Brazil.
25 people around the globe are reffing this year’s World Cup. Only 1 from the United States. Sure, it’s more impressive to be actually playing on the field and be one of the best athletes on Earth, but this is still noteworthy. From the outside looking in, it’s like your average Joe simply being the best at what he does. Think about that. Do you think you’re in the top 25 on Earth at anything? For me it’s either Battle Mode in MK 64 or the wide world of masturbation. I’d put hard money down vs. anyone to pick up either stick, but in reality there’s probably millions of people better at both hobbies. Shit, I would get mopped by most teenage Asian kids alone in both categories. So good on Mr. Geiger to go with his gut and be the best Soccer ref in all the lands. Anything that gets you out of Jersey is a dream worth following.