A tale of two refs

By | November 27, 2013

The art of refereeing is a thankless one. No one respects the ref. Players surround him (it’s always men in Men’s soccer) after a call they dont like. Managers abuse him. Fans curse him, burn him in effigy, and generally blame him.  Wages are low, benefits are few. And in the view of the majority, their team loses because of the ref, or wins despite him.

While most of that sentiment is down to fanhood, there does exist a spectrum of quality among referees. Most lie in the middle, and most refs in the top European leagues are very good (though they could be better with video replay, though thats a argument for a different time). But there are some who are clearly much better than other, while some are so bad that even the most biased observer would admit they were bad.  A example of a great ref is Pierluigi Collina, while one of the more infamous refs of recent times is Byron Moreno.


Byron Moreno

It takes a lot for Sepp Blatter to criticize a ref, as they are the ultimate arbiters of FIFA’s will. But even Blatter had to admit that the refereeing by Moreno has been a “disaster” after the 2002 World Cup Match between Italy and South Korea. While South Korea was a very good team, when they faced Italy, a lot of decisions went in their “favor.”


Watch this video. It’s biased, but does show at least 2 or 3 fouls that should be straight reds. On the other hand, Italy gets whistled for many otherwise innocous fouls



Weeks after the end of the world cup, Moreno was suspended by his parent organization, the Ecuadorian FA, due to his actions in a game between Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito and Barcelona Sporting Club. Barcelona Sporting was winning the game 3-2 heading into the 90th minute, when Moreno called for an abnormally long 6 minutes of extra time. He let play continue for 13 minutes, during which Liga Deportiva scored the equalizer in the 99th minute and a winner in the 101st minute, after which time was called. Moreno alos falsified the minutes at which Liga scored their equalizing and winning goals in his match report. After serving a 20 game suspension, Moreno “retired” after he was suspended for sending 3 players off in a 1-1 draw. He was obviously suspected of match fixing in both cases

But the story doesnt end there. In 2010, Moreno was arrested at JFK airport in New York for trying to smuggle over 10 pounds of heroin into the US, hidden in his underwear. Arrested and charged with drug smuggling, he was jailed for 26 months before returning to ecuador


Pierluigi Collina


Collina was a scary ref

Few Players get onto the cover of a soccer video game. It is a great hoor, and one must stand alongside Messi, Ronaldo, and Thierry Henry to claim such an honor. But only one ref can claim he was the face of a video game: Pierluigi Collina, who was the face of Pro Evolution Soccer 3 and 4 (along with an appearance as an “unlockable” ref in Fifa 2005.

So great was Collina’s reputation. He was widely regarded as he best ref in Europe for nearly a decade. He reffed the final of the 1999 Champions League Final, the 2004 UEFA Cup Final, and under the brightest spotlight, the 2002 World Cup Final, with no major errors or contentious decisions. Respected by players and fans alike, he has become a cult figure.

Above all, he was regarded as “uncorruptable,” which is even more creditable give the fact that he reffed in Serie A for more than a decade. He earned the hatred of Luciano Moggi, the chairman of Juventus, for apparenty being too “objective.” Moggi was the major culprit behind the Calciocopoli bribery scandal of 2006, which saw Juventus relegated and Italian football shaken

Collina has made quite a career for himself after retiring. He has been seen in advertisements from Japan, to Turkey, to Italy. He was a spokesman for the car manufacturer Opel, and counts many rich and powerful among his admirers.


It goes to show that quality will shine through, even in refereeing


4 thoughts on “A tale of two refs

  1. Balser

    I really enjoyed this post- the feel and tone was much different than a lot on this blog and I think it was a great change. I also agree with the other comments and what we talked to about in class that refereeing is a thankless job. I also liked how you took such extreme examples to make your point. Bravo

  2. Jordan Pearson

    True, this goes right back to the conversation we were having about referees in class the other week. The mark of a good referee is that the games ends and with the final whistle, you realize “Oh yea. There is a ref out there.” It is understandable, however, that this is not always the case. I feel like there are always going to be close calls and a foul has to be VERY blatant for a fan to agree that the ref was right to penalize his/her team. Still, I think that most fans appreciate when a ref is calling the game fairly.
    The big difficulty in refereeing soccer is the lack of video replay. This is essential to the flow of the game- Can you imagine a soccer referee pausing game to run to a little video box to review whether or not a player was actually fouled or if he is faking it? However, modern broadcasting technology lets people watching the game on TV see the play a second, third, and fourth time. The viewer can watch in slow motion as an announcer points out the foul or lack of contact on a given play. Many are able to pause and rewatch the play on their own accord. Even fans in the stadium are able to see replays on the big screen. Referees are not given this privilege. They have to see the play once in full speed and are held to the same standard- if not a higher one- than the rest of us. How many times have you seen a play on TV, made a rash judgement on how the ref’s call was wrong, and then realized he actually made the right call after looking at the replay? Sure, that situation works both ways, but I think that on the whole, refs deserve more credit that the general public gives them and I think it is a shame that one simple mistake can cost someone their career.

  3. Colby Shanafelt

    While both of these are extreme examples, it is really incredible to reflect on the impact one decision can have on one’s career. As good a ref as Collina was, working one more important game on a national or international spotlight could have completely changed his career, as a single bad call could have forever ostracized him from the world of soccer. Moreover, the recent violence towards soccer referees, such as a US referee being punched and dying from the injury, a Dutch volunteer linesmen being beaten to death, and a Brazilian soccer ref being decapitated, has made this profession not only stressful, but potentially dangerous. In places such as Brazil, it takes a lot of guts to call a foul or a penalty against a player on the home team, especially when such a decision could prove fatal.

    Still, isn’t it ironic that the most famous referees are the ones who are the most unnoticed on the pitch?


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