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Pierluigi Collina (born 13 February 1960) is an Italianmarker former football referee. He is regarded as the best referee of all time.

He is still involved in football as non-paid consultant to the Italian Football Referees Association (AIA), and is a member of the UEFA Referees Committee.


Collina was born in Bolognamarker and attended the local universitymarker, graduating with a degree in economics 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.

Within three years he was officiating at the highest level of regional matches, while also completing his compulsory military service. In 1988, he progressed more rapidly than normal to the national third division, Serie C1 and Serie C2. After three seasons, he was promoted to officiating Serie B and Serie A matches.

About this time he contracted a severe form of alopecia, resulting in the permanent loss of all his facial hair, giving him his distinctive bald appearance and earning the nickname Kojak.

In 1995, after he had officiated at 43 Serie A matches, he was placed on FIFAmarker's Referees List. He was allocated five matches at the 1996 Olympic Games, including the final between Nigeria and Argentina. He refereed the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United; he cited this as his most memorable game because of the cheers at the end, which he described as 'lions' roar'.

In 2002, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he was chosen for the World Cup final between Brazil and Germany. Prior to the game, Oliver Kahn told the Irish Times: "Collina is a world-class referee, there's no doubt about that, but he doesn't bring luck, does he?" He was referring to two previous high-profile matches that Collina had refereed which involved Kahn: the aforementioned UEFA Champions League final in 1999, a 2–1 defeat for Bayern; and Germany's 5–1 defeat against England in 2001. Kahn's luck did not change in the final and his team lost 2-0.

In 2003, he published his autobiography, The Rules of the Game (Le Mie Regole del Gioco).

He was referee for the 2004 UEFA Cup final between Valencia and Olympique Marseille. Euro 2004 was his last major international tournament, as he reached the mandatory retirement age of 45 for FIFA referees early in 2005. His last international match was Portugal - Slovakia, for a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Estádio da Luzmarker in Lisbonmarker. The Italian Football Federation raised its mandatory retirement age to 46 in order to accommodate Collina for a further season. However, a dispute emerged between the federation and Collina early in August 2005, following Collina's decision to sign a major sponsorship deal with Opel (also advertising for Vauxhall Motors in Great Britainmarker - both are owned by General Motors). As Opel was also a sponsor of Serie A club A.C. Milan, the deal was seen as a major conflict of interest and Collina was disbarred from refereeing top-flight matches in Italy. In response, Collina handed in his resignation, effectively ending his career. The Italian Referees Association then attempted to reject his resignation, but he persisted with his retirement. He did, however, referee the Soccer Aid matches for charity in May 2006 and September 2008. During the latter of these games, Collina was involved in an awkward fall and was stretchered off after 21 minutes of play.

One of his last games, a Champions League qualifier between Everton and Villarreal, was shrouded in controversy as he disallowed a goal by Everton that might have sent the game into extra time. This was seen by many as an error because Ferguson had not appeared to commit a foul. But this did little to tarnish a career in which Collina was almost universally considered to be the best referee in the world, and perhaps the only referee that teams were ever happy to be drawn with.

Perhaps one of the greatest distinctions of Collina’s career was earning the hatred of Luciano Moggi, the Juventus official and chief instigator of the 2006 Italian football scandal. Collina was one of the referees that Moggi attempted to have punished for decisions that Collina made against Juventus. In an intercepted phone call, Moggi claimed that Collina and his fellow colleague Roberto Rosetti were too "objective" and should be "punished" for it. Nevertheless, he and Rosetti were the few referees whose reputations remained unscathed from the scandal, a testimony of their integrity.

He was chosen as the cover figure for the popular video game Pro Evolution Soccer 3 (and subsequently Pro Evolution Soccer 4, alongside Francesco Totti and Thierry Henry). This was unusual, as football games had come to almost exclusively feature only players and managers on their covers; in addition, he appeared as an "unlockable" referee in the rival game FIFA 2005, as well as not actually appearing in Pro Evolution Soccer 3 as a referee despite heralding the front cover of the game. His easily recognisable face (to followers of football) also led to his appearance in a 2006 Vauxhall Vectra commercial, which aired during 2006 FIFA World Cup matches (in the advert break) in the United Kingdommarker. He also appeared in adverts for Mastercard and Adidas during the 2006 World Cup.

Although Collina is closely identified with football, his favourite sports club plays basketball. He is a lifelong supporter of Fortitudo Bologna, one of Europe's leading basketball clubs.

Personal life

Pierluigi Collina met his future wife Gianna in 1988 in Versilia. After living together almost from their meeting, they moved to the coastal town of Viareggiomarker. Since the wedding, the couple have had two daughters, and own a Westie dog called Wallace.

After his retirement in August 2005 he concentrated on his own business as a financial advisor.


  • IFFHS' World's Best Referee of the Year
    • Winner (6): 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003


  • The Rules of the Game: Pierluigi Collina (translated from the Italian by Iain Halliday), Macmillan, 2003. ISBN 0-330-41872-6 Original title: Le Mie Regole del Gioco.

  1. IFFHS: "All-Time World Referee Ranking"
  2. Referee profile mentioning the "lion's roar", 1999: the Euro 2004 section of the 7M.CN website.
  3. World Cup 2002 News: (The Irish Times) (July 1 2002). Retrieved on May 29 2007.
  4. Villarreal v. Everton: (August 25 2005). Retrieved on May 29 2007.

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