Photo Source: Harris Walker
He is best known for refereeing the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
That match was deemed the most exciting final in the UEFA Champions League history, simply because of the final two goals that were scored during the stoppage time by Manchester United, which made them winner.
He is none other than Pierluigi Collina, famous Italian former football referee who was named FIFA’s “Best Referee of the Year” for six consecutive years. Celebrated as the best referee during his time, Collina was reputed for his sense of fairness despite great pressure and his calm demenaour. He was well-respected by the players, managers and fans.
The memorable, big final football matches that he has refereed include the World Cup 2002, Germany v Brasil, Champions League 2009, Manchester United v Bayern Munich and the Olympics 1996, Argentina v Nigeria.
The former referee who was also a financial consultant is now a renowned speaker and talks to the corporate world about leadership, decision-making and ways to succeed in life.
“Like for every Italian, football is something like a ‘religion’. When I was a child I spent hours playing football with my friends. I still remember these never-ending matches played in the park with the posts created using two stones or our sweaters,” answers Collina when asked about how his passion for football sparked.
“Then I entered in a football academy and played as a sweeper until I was 17 years old. To be honest, when I was a youngster, football had only 50% of my ‘heart’ as I had a big passion also for basketball. I was born in Bologna where this game is very popular.”
At 17, Collina’s schoolmate suggested that he participate in a referee course which was arranged by the local referees’ society.
“When you are 17 you do things without a specific reason, only to live a different experience. I accepted but I never thought to do it seriously. But things went very differently. Thirteen years later I refereed my first Serie A match and I continued as active referee until 2005.”
For a long part of his career, he also worked on the side as a financial consultant.
Collina states that being considered the best referee in football comes with a huge responsibility. Nobody can accept that you can make a mistake, so you have to always maintain the highest of standards. You have to work very much harder to uphold the expectations thrust upon you.
“Modern football needs referees who are perfectly prepared. There was a time when knowing the rules and being fit was enough. Today something else is needed. Referees must know everything about the matches they are going to officiate and be able to predict what can happen.
“In other words, they have to be able to read the game properly. UEFA is paying more and more attention to these details and trying to educate a new generation of modern referees.”
When it comes to handling famous football players, Collina says that they are treated the same as the others. Famous or unknown, each player has his own traits and Collina sometimes has to double up as a psychologist to understand if a smile works better than any word when it comes to managing them.
“There are three things a good leader needs: clear vision, good communication skills and a sharp decision-making ability.”