Having spent more than 50 years of his life playing, coaching and officiating the game he loves, Robertus “Rob” Mooijekind said there aren’t many things that can surprise him at a soccer match these days.
However, he was happy to be proved wrong at a Sept. 8 match at Mount Airy’s Wallace Shelton Stadium. Prior to kickoff of a match between Mount Airy and North Surry High Schools, Mooijekind was honored with the Dick Knox Distinguished Service Award.
The award, presented to Mooijekind by the North Carolina Athletic Officials Association and Blue Ridge Soccer Officials Association, is a recognition of an individual’s devoted service to and involvement with young student-athletes in North Carolina. Mooijekind was given a plaque with the following engraved message:
“Your years of service and dedication are recognized and deeply appreciated. The lives you have touched during your career are a tribute to the positive influence of high school athletics.”
The Blue Ridge Soccer Officials Association is the geographically the largest soccer association in the state. The association’s coverage area runs between the state’s borders with Virginia and South Carolina and covers much of the western part of N.C. The award is typically presented at the association’s annual meeting during the summer; however, this year’s meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Mooijekind called the surprise a “humbling experience” and that he was thankful “to be part of this great game called soccer.”
His experience in the beautiful game goes back much further than 1999, which is when he began officiating high school sports. Mooijekind began playing soccer in 1968 in the Netherlands. He competed in the club Delftse Sport Vereniging Concordia (DSV Concordia) until he moved to North Carolina in 1982.
Mooijekind and Mike Howard were founding members of Surry County’s first adult travel soccer team: Mount Airy Soccer Club. The local club won both the regular season and tournament titles during the first year of the Appalachian Soccer League. Mooijekind later competed in the Holland America Organization in Atlanta, Ga.
Mooijekind contributed to the early success of the Mount Airy Youth Soccer Association when he returned to N.C in 1992. He, Howard and Mara Fiordilino held soccer clinics around the county, and he also helped found programs at both Mount Airy Middle and North Surry High School. Mooijekind’s influence was felt throughout the county as he worked to spread the sport by helping to organize recreational leagues and travel soccer teams as well as coaching.
When Mooijekind began officiating soccer, he wanted to act as a coach on the field to help the next generation. Many of the players competing in the match on Sept. 8 had Mooijekind as an official throughout youth, middle school and high school soccer. The players are what keeps him coming back each year.
In a 2020 interview with the News, Mooijekind said: “This game is for the kids – it’s not for me, it’s not for the fans, it’s not for the coaches or the school. Whether they are pee-wees or they are high school seniors, that’s who I do it for. I have no ulterior motive. I don’t do it for the money, because by the time you pay for gas, fees, soccer shirts and all that stuff there’s really not a whole lot left, if any.”
Mooijekind doesn’t have any plans to retire from the sport any time soon, but when he does, he hopes to be able to sit back and enjoy the games as a fan and be thankful he was a part of the sport for so long.