Every game has its rules and in the world of football there are rules to be observed. The people who ensure that all rules are observed usually come dressed in black and white and these are the referees. It is usually assumed that this men and women do not do much but actually without them they game we all love would be chaotic.
It’s the one with the whistle – the referee – who takes charge of a match, with the help of two assistant referees. In professional matches, a fourth official is also involved.
The referee enforces the laws of the game, awarding free-kicks if there is any foul play and keeping a check on the time. The ref can also postpone, stop, suspend or call off a match if there are weather or crowd problems.
The assistant referee helps out with decisions such as throw-ins and offsides and sometimes will have a better view of incidents than the referee.
The fourth official is based on the touchline, assisting with substitutions and keeping a check on the managers.
Everybody praises the players in the field but rarely do they get to appreciate the work done by the referees. This however does not mean that there are no good referees out there. The football game has some of the best trained referees. They have been to big games and also hold big titles which many fans do not know simply because they are restricted to whistles and cards.
Italian former football referee Pierluigi Collina served his terms as a FIFA listed referee from 1995 to 2005. He was named FIFA’s “Best Referee of the Year” a record six consecutive times and is widely regarded as the best referee of international football history. Collina is a current member of the UEFA Referees Committee and also serving his duty as a Chief of the Football Federation of Ukraine since July 5, 2010. He persuaded his referee’s course way back in 1977 and was nicknamed Kojak for his distinctive bald look because of alopecia. After he officiated in 43 Series A matches, he was inducted into FIFA’s Referees List in 1995. Some of the best matches that he officiated was 2002 FIFA World Cup Final between Brazil and Germany, and 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
German former football referee Markus Merk is widely considered as the best referee of his time and is the record holder for officiating highest numbers of Bundesliga matches. He was named FIFA’s “Best Referee of the Year” three times and DFB German Referee of the Year a record six times. He debuted as the youngest Bundesliga referee ever in 1988 at the age of just 25. He also officiated football matches at 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He served his terms as a FIFA listed referee starting from 1993 World Cup qualifier until his retirement after the match of Bayern München and Hertha BSC Berlin on the last day of the Bundesliga 2008 season. He is currently the main referee commentator of the Turkish channel Lig TV covering Turkish Super League. Besides his refereeing career, he is also a professional dentist.
While some referees are remembered for great workmanship on the field others are haunted by the ghosts of games past. They made the wrong move or gave the wrong card. These are referees who go down history as having made some of the greatest mistakes on the job.
Graham Poll (Croatia v Australia, 2006)
Poor Graham Poll. A highly-respected official who had refereed two games at the 2006 World Cup flawlessly, he was firmly in line to be given the job for the final. But, inexplicably, in the final group match between Croatia and Australia he failed to send off Croatian left back Josip Šimunić despite booking him twice. Šimunić stayed on the field, only finally departing when a post-final whistle third booking for dissent finally earned him a deserved red. Poll retired at the end of the next season following all the mocking; it’s not quite as easy as 1-2-3 then.
Karl-Josef Assenmacher (Holland v England, 1993)
The man who famously cost ‘Turnip Head’ Graham Taylor his job. With the score at 0-0, David Platt was bearing down on goal when Dutch defender Ronald Koeman unceremoniously hauled him down on the edge of the area. The immediate dispute was whether it was a free-kick or penalty, but the red card for Koeman was never in doubt – apart from, that is, to Assenmacher who immediately, bafflingly, issued a yellow. As is often the way with these things, Koeman ended up scoring the first goal – a delightful chip over David Seamon, Holland won 2-0, England failed to qualify for USA ’94 and Taylor departed. Did he not like that.