It’s a Tuesday night at Snohomish Soccer Dome, and the night’s docket of indoor games is about to begin. Players from the two teams warm up on the arena’s artificial surface, passing the ball between one another and banging shots toward the goals built into the arena’s frame.
In the midst of it all is a short, follically-challenged man wearing a fluorescent yellow t-shirt with “Referee” printed in black block letters across the back. He interacts playfully with those warming up, in one moment issuing a mock stern lecture before grabbing the player around the neck in an affectionate embrace.
But once the game begins the smile is replaced by stern and attentive expression as he stalks one sideline, whistle grasped firmly in his left hand rather than dangling from a cord around his neck.
This is the man known in the Snohomish County soccer community simply as, “V.”
Viorel Ciubuc is a local indoor soccer officiating institution. For 32 years the native of Romania has overseen games at Everett Soccer Arena and Snohomish Soccer Dome, and Ciubuc recently received recognition for his dedication to his craft, being honored for refereeing an astonishing 40,000 games.
And 40,000 is on the low end of the estimate.
“Maybe 50,000, but we celebrate 50,000 next year,” Ciubuc said in his thick accent.
Snohomish Soccer Dome held an event on June 9 honoring Ciubuc’s career as a soccer referee, celebrating Ciubuc for what he’s meant to the local community.
“There’s a lot of people who have grown up and played while he’s been reffing,” said Snohomish Soccer Dome owner Pablo Mummey, who arranged the ceremony for Ciubuc. “In this I feel he’s been like an icon.
“He’s there every day at the facility,” Mummey added. “He’s always there. He’s very reliable, you can always count on him being there. I don’t think he’s ever been late to a game.”
Ciubuc, who was coy about his age, arrived in Everett from Romania in 1985 after fleeing persecution from the then-communist regime. Ciubuc, who earned his master’s degree in chemical engineering in Romania, initially had difficulty finding work. But one day he was jogging through Everett when he came across Everett Soccer Arena. Having played soccer in Romania, he decided to wander in, and he was asked if he could referee. Ciubuc answered in the affirmative, and thus began his prolific career.
Refereeing became Ciubuc’s full-time job. For 22 years Ciubuc was a fixture at Everett Soccer Arena. He said on average he refereed five games each weeknight, then 10 games on Saturday and 10 more on Sunday, totalling about 40 a week. During the busiest times of the year he said that number would increase to as many as 60 per week. Though June’s event celebrated 40,000 games, he believes he passed that mark just in his time at Everett Soccer Arena.
The past 10 years Ciubuc has refereed at Snohomish Soccer Dome, where he said his workload has been closer to 20-25 games a week — not because he’s slowing down physically, but rather mentally. Still, he estimates he’s refereed 10,000 games at Snohomish Soccer Dome alone.
Even Ciubuc admits the number of games he’s refereed is, “crazy.” He believes his exploits are worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“For me, every game is important,” Ciubuc said. “To the kids, to the family in the balcony.
“In sports, if you lose the referee was bad, if you win the referee was good,” Ciubuc added. “But they know me. They give me hugs on the street, it’s amazing. Women, men, that’s appreciation. They say they never saw a referee like me. I have fun with them, it’s my show.”
Ciubuc is also appreciated, not just for his dedication, but for the quality of his refereeing.
“He’s a good ref, he knows the rules,” Mummey said. “He doesn’t get too picky about the little things, he lets the game flow as much as possible. But he makes the calls that are necessary.”
Said Ciubuc: “I tell you I’m not a good referee, I’m excellent. I’m not a coach, I cannot do that. But I’m the judge.”
And no one has served as the judge more often. No one is even close.
If you have an idea for a community sports story, e-mail Nick Patterson at email@example.com.