When Pierluigi Collina announced last month that he was to stop refereeing, European football bade a sad farewell to one of its most charismatic and popular figures.
Instantly recognizable by his hairless head and wide eyes, Collina's calm control in the most pressured environments earned him the respect of fans and players alike. His unique style on the pitch will be missed, but as the 45-year-old Italian told uefa.com, he is not considering leaving behind him the game he loves so much just yet.
uefa.com: How much will you miss refereeing?
Pierluigi Collina: After 28 years, a lot! It is a relevant part of my life. I started refereeing when I was 17, and even though you know there will be a time when everything will finish, when the time arrives it is not easy to give in. I will miss it a lot.
uefa.com: What was the most memorable match you refereed and why?
Collina: I had the honour to referee many great matches so it is very difficult for me to say one above the other, but probably the FIFA World Cup final in 2002, because of the importance a World Cup final has, probably a lot more than any other match I refereed. Being selected as the referee of a World Cup final makes you proud, absolutely.
uefa.com: How big are the pressures today compared to when you started your career?
Collina: The pressure is higher. The impact of television is definitely higher than ten or 15 years ago. When I started as a referee, the matches in the first division were shot by maybe six cameras. Now Serie A matches are shot by 20 or maybe 30 cameras so it is very easy for the television to show something not seen on the field, not only by the referee but also by the players, the coaches and the people attending the match.
uefa.com: Is television the referee's friend or his enemy?
Sometimes television shows something that no one has seen on the field, but sometimes television doesn't show something you have seen on the field and this makes the job more difficult. Something happened during my last match, between Villarreal [CF] and Everton [FC]. The television didn't help me because it didn't show what I saw, a foul by a player off the ball. Unfortunately the television couldn't show this, but I'm still very convinced about it, so sometimes the television helps, sometimes it doesn't.
uefa.com: How do you deal with the pressure?
Collina: You must be sure that you give all you can to prepare for the match, so you know you did your best. You must maintain your top condition throughout the match, especially when the players are more tired and make more mistakes. The physical preparation is important for many reasons but you cannot think of that alone. You must also be able to read the match, totally. That means to know everything about the teams who are going to play, about the players, the tactics, techniques and so on. If you know all this beforehand it is easier to deal with the events and incidents that could happen during the match.
uefa.com: Are there any players you particularly enjoyed working with, or who you found particularly difficult?
Collina: I think there is not a difficult player to deal with. I am very happy and proud to say I had very, very good relations with many players during my career. It was a pleasure to work with them, maybe some more than others. If I mention some especially, Raúl [González] from Spain or Paolo Maldini the Italian defender, David Beckham. Those three were probably at the top.
uefa.com: If there is one thing you could say to the players to make referees lives easier, what would it be?
Collina: Trust in the referees. They try to do their job as best as they can. Sometimes they make a mistake but that is a part of their human nature.
The main result a referee can have is to be accepted by the players even if he makes a mistake. The only reason a player can accept a mistake made by a referee is if the player trusts in him.
uefa.com: What next for Collina?
Collina: Honestly I don’t know. I have been involved in football for the last 30 years or more, as a referee and before as a young player and a fan. I cannot see my life without football so I'm sure I'd like to continue to be involved in football. But in the near future I would like to spend time with my family. I made a big sacrifice because I spent a lot of time away from home refereeing, so probably I would like to stay with them in the very near future. Then we will see.
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