Italian ref for Romanian showdown

An Italian referee will handle the crucial league match between FC Rapid Bucuresti and FC Steaua Bucuresti.

Title decider
The Romanian Football Federation (FRF) today announced that the experienced Domenico Messina would officiate at the match which could decide the First Division title race. He will be assisted by compatriots Silvio Gemignani and Paolo Calcagno.

Salomir secret
The move follows the leaking of the identity of the referee expected to be assigned to the game at the Rapid stadium - FIFA official Marian Salomir. The FRF's Referees Commission, together with the Professional League, had wanted to keep the news of Salomir's likely appointment secret in order to protect him.

Foreign influence
Consequently, they were forced to appoint a foreign referee for the first time since 2001, when the Swiss Urs Meier officiated at the Romanian Cup final between FC Dinamo Bucuresti and AS Rocar Bucuresti.

Tense moment
FRF official Nicolae Grigorescu said: "I had postponed the decision in order to protect Salomir and other referees from the press. Also, by postponing the decision until two days before the game, as is usual in the UEFA Champions League, I had wanted to protect the referee from all sorts of pressures and suspicions."

Referees' decision
Saturday's match is crucial to both teams' championship ambitions. If Divizia A leaders Rapid beat Steaua, they will go eleven points clear of their city rivals with six games to play. Meanwhile, the Referees Commission said of Messina's appointment: "This was made by the Italian Referees Comission on Tuesday, who asked us not to announce the names until Thursday, two days before the game, according to international and Italian rules."