Without doubt the world's most famous referee, Pierluigi Collina has graced uefa.com's Off the Ball column on numerous occasions. Who can forget the series of all-singing adverts he did on Japanese television in the aftermath of the 2002 FIFA World Cup for octopus meatballs? However, dignity has returned with the news that the official is to be awarded an honorary science doctorate by England's University of Hull. In explanation, Dr David Sewell, Dean of the Faculty of Science, said: "We believe Pierluigi Collina brings a range of skills to the science of refereeing, including detailed knowledge of his 'subject matter', objectivity and fairness and the ability to make rapid decisions based on evidence - such as events on the field. He also exhibits excellent communication skills, leadership qualities and calmness under considerable pressure." However, cynics in uefa.com's London representative office have suggested that certain other factors may have come into play in the English institution offering Collina his doctorate - not least the fact that he was the official in charge during England's 5-1 win against Germany in Munich and the fact that he awarded the penalty that gave England a 1-0 win against Argentina at the last World Cup.
Hold your tongue
Collina's refereeing may be being recognised as a branch of science in England, but over in the Netherlands, whistle-blower Ben Haverkort has made a mark in an entirely different manner. The referee was at the centre of a huge controversy in December after awarding a penalty to FC Twente in a match against Feyenoord, which was converted by Sjaak Polak. Outraged Feyenoord goalkeeper Patrick Lodewijks then handed the ball to the referee with the stinging accusation: "Here is your ball, as it is your match." However, he was completely taken aback by Haverkort's response. "He showed me his tongue, not one time, but maybe six or seven times," said Lodewijks. "When my daughter does this at home, I send her to her room immediately." Dutch refereeing chief Jaap Uilenberg was almost as shocked by Haverkort's actions as Lodewijks, and issued a public telling-off to the referee saying: "His reaction was absolutely not right, and cannot be justified. Patrick and Ben have spoken about it like adults since."
Finally, some stupid stories with a vague Italian flavour. Firstly, reports have been echoing round Europe that AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti's daughter has decided not to follow her father into football after taking part in a major televised talent show in Italy. Katia Ancelotti was a contestant on Amici, a show broadcast by Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi's Canale 5 network, but her Milan connections could not help her woo the public as she finished 25th out of 25 contestants in a viewer's vote with "insecurity, pride and impulsiveness" causing her downfall according to the show's official website. In other daft Italian news, Chelsea FC's Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has revealed that his mother is a big fan of Irish midfield player Damien Duff. "When I don't put him in the squad my mother, who is 84, asks 'Why isn't Damien playing?' She kills me about it and that's true," said Ranieri. Mothers clearly play an important role at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea's Romanian striker Adrian Mutu taking considerable comfort in his mother's recent move to London. "I am very happy at Chelsea because my mother is here," he said. "When I finish training I ring her up and she makes me food."
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