For Stig Sasse, life provided many joys, but two ranked above all of the others: family and soccer. As a child and young man in his native Sweden, he certainly was exposed to the Beautiful Game and, had people chosen to ask, he would have pleasantly regaled them with stories of his time at left back and the need for more left-footed players. That was one of the first things you noticed after meeting him: the conversation was earnest but easy. What a welcome addition to the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame, Class of 2017.
Stig would first move to the United States in 1952 at the age of 27, but involvement with soccer would be secondary to raising a family and working abroad until about 1978. That is when he would permanently settle in this country, specifically in the New Fairfield, Connecticut area. After a brief attempt at playing, he realized that at age 53 one door might have closed. But another had opened, and refereeing became a calling. The game was all the better for that.
The family would move to North Carolina in 1986 and Stig stayed with officiating of the high school game, rising to a high level of grade 7. But more significantly, he began a parallel career as a referee assessor. Although even in his early 70’s he could still pass the physical tests required of soccer officials, he would turn exclusively to the evaluation part by the time he was 75 and would continue in that capacity for another ten years.
During this time he became North Carolina’s NCSRA State Director of Assessment, a post that he held for four years. He organized the program and provided many of the policies that continue to exist today. He attended nearly all state-level tournaments and people came to recognize him, especially younger up-and-coming referees.
It is heartening to see that, in his lifetime, he was recognized in official circles. In 2006, the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association recognized him with its Official/Booking Agent of the Year, and a short time later the Triangle Soccer Referees established an annual award in his honor called the Stig Sasse Rising Official Award. In January 2015, NCYSA honored Stig posthumously with its highest award, Pioneer of the Game.
In the nomination letter submitted for his inclusion into the Hall of Fame, there was a revealing statement concerning his philosophy on handling the game. Feeling strongly that assuring safety, fairness and fun in soccer is the essence of the referee’s job rather than bending the rules to his or her own viewpoint, Stig was heard to say that “if after a while you are still interpreting the rules of the game, then look for something else to do….”
Very, very many in the North Carolina soccer family were saddened by his death in 2014. But it is comforting to know that the good things that he promoted in the game are evident every time the official blows his whistle to start a youth match in North Carolina. He is certainly a welcome addition to the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame.