Pierluigi Collina booking
Often cited as the best referee of his generation by players and fans alike, Pierluigi Collina was
respected for his no-nonsense approach to officiating. He is instantly recognizable as he contracted a
severe form of alopecia, resulting in the permanent loss of all his hair, giving him his distinctive bald
appearance and earning the nickname Kojak. Coincidentally, this happened around the same time that
he began refereeing more high-profile matches in the Italian Serie A League (about 1988). He grew up
in Bologne and graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Bologne in 1984. During
his teenage years, he played as a central defender for a local team, but was persuaded in 1977 to
take a referee’s course, where it was discovered that he had a particular aptitude for the job. Given his
natural ability as a referee it didn’t take him long to climb through the ranks, and within 3 years he was
officiating in top-flight football. All achieved whilst completing his compulsory military service. After
taking charge of 43 Serie A matches he was placed on FIFA’s Referees List–this being the pinnacle of
any football referee’s career. He was allocated five matches at the 1996 Olympic Games, including the
final between Nigeria and Argentina.
Then, within the space of 3 years, Pierluigi was placed in charge of the world’s 2 biggest football
matches; the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United,
and the 2002 World Cup final between Brazil and Germany. In his book Le mie regole del gioco (“my
rules”, not “the rules”), Pierluigi writes about his preparations before a match, which perhaps give
some insight into why he was such a top referee. He was a stickler for detail and always tried to find
out as much as possible about the teams, the players, the style of play, and the history between the
teams. He knew beforehand what a coach would do when his team was a goal behind, and he even
wanted to know whether the players were left or right footed! He met his future wife Gianna in 1988 in
Versilia and after living together for a while they moved to the coastal town of Viareggio. The couple
have since had 2 children. Pierluigi is famous the world over, particularly in Japan after appearing in a
TV commercial for frozen takoyaki products. He also officiated the Second Round match between
Japan and Turkey at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
He retired in 2005 after refereeing his last major international tournament, Euro 2004. His love for
football continued after his retirement and he acts as a non-paid consultant to the Italian Football
Referees Association (AIA), and is a member of the UEFA Referees Committee. He has also been the
head of referees for the Football Federation of Ukraine since 2010.
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