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Football Focus Exclusive!

Our Sports Editor for RGS Gazette and Phil Sharp, FIFA World Cup referee discuss the extraordinary career of Pierluigi Collina.

Phil Sharp is a former English Premier League assistant referee and one of only 10 match officials from the UK to have officiated in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final between Germany and France. He was also selected to represent Great Britain at the 2004 Olympic Games football tournament and represented England at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.  

In James Palin's interview as Sports Editor for the Gazette, Phil picks out Pierluigi Collina as the best referee in the world.

What are you looking at?

Pierluigi Collina has big blue eyes which radiate from a lean face, a soft guise that conceals a stern figure, bald because of the alopecia he suffered when he was 24. His appearance has helped him to obtain advertising contracts and he was once voted the sexiest man in Italy by a women’s magazine. Collina, who speaks English, French and Spanish, believes a referee’s reputation is built on courage and he disagrees with the notion that the best referee is one not noticed during a match.

The Italian has been named the best referee in the world for six consecutive years. His firm reputation is built on integrity, not being intimidated and enjoying the trust of the players. Referees in Italy must retire at 45. “A limit based on a birth date is not correct, not fair,” Collina said. “If a coach trusts a player, it’s because of his performances, not because he is young or old.”

Born and educated in Bologna, Collina began refereeing at 17, and 14 years later became a Serie A official. His imperious shadow has been cast over World Cup and European Cup finals. He regards television as a tool to improve himself by analysing his performance. But he does not envisage TV helping referees during matches, apart from to see if the ball crossed the goal line. “If you have 20 cameras at different positions it is easy to find an image showing something different from what you have seen on the field,” he said.

“The most important thing for referees is preparation. You must know how the teams play and the players. If you know how a player plays, you can react quicker and your decision is easier.” Collina acknowledges that he has always had a good rapport with many players, which makes officiating less demanding. “If a referee’s mistake can be accepted by the player, it means they trust you,” he said. “That is perhaps the best level a referee can reach.”