Wednesday Oct 28, 2020  
  11/05/2011: Pierluigi Collina
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The following article is an excerpt of the interview made by Kaveh Solhekol from The Times magazine on September 17, 2007 that I am sure would be interesting to read for Lazio supporters:

Pierluigi Collina wants to get something off his chest. Since the Italian referee blew the final whistle on his career two years ago, rumours have circulated in his homeland that he is a Lazio supporter. Nothing wrong with that, especially in a country that is obsessed with football, but Collina was the most famous and well-respected referee in the world and the conspiracy theorists are having a field day.

“This is something that has to be clarified and I am very happy to answer the question,” Collina said. “If you ask anyone who they supported when they were young – if they are honest, they will say a particular team. When I was 10, I didn’t know my future. When I’m asked who I used to support, what am I supposed to say? That I didn’t support anyone? What would people’s reaction be? That I am crazy? That I come from Mars? I only said that I supported Lazio when I was a boy. Remember, when I was a boy. But journalists forget this and say I am a Lazio supporter.”

Being a referee means being above suspicion – especially if you are Italian. Integrity and impartiality are two of the qualities that transformed Collina from a 17-year-old who thought that it would be fun to go on a refereeing course into the man who officiated at so many important matches that he finds it hard to pick his favourite.

“There was the World Cup final in 2002,” he said. “To be one of the actors in something that special was unbelievable. There was the Champions League final in 1999 between Bayern Munich and Manchester United. England v Scotland at Wembley in the same year. Germany 1 England 5 in Munich – I have been very lucky because I refereed so many important games.”

Collina’s good fortune did not end when he blew the final whistle on his refereeing career. Thanks to his standing in the game and his striking, bald image – he was once voted the sexiest man in Italy – the offers came rolling in. He has a lucrative sponsorship deal with Opel, the car manufacturer, and is a brand ambassador for Castrol, the oil company, which is one of the sponsors of Euro 2008, and he also finds time in his schedule to serve on the Uefa Referees’ Committee and to appoint and train referees in Italy.

“When I started refereeing, games were covered by six TV cameras; now there are 20 at every match,” he said. “It is very difficult to say if the standard of refereeing has improved when you have changed the system of assessment. Referees are definitely better trained and better prepared and I believe the standard of refereeing is very good.”

Ask Collina about anything to do with football – except the Italian match-fixing scandal exposed last year - and he is happy to shoot the breeze. Diving? Players need to get together and stamp it out. Video technology? Bring it in immediately to help referees to decide whether the ball has crossed the goal-line.

Talking about the game he loves is still a big part of Collina’s life and he is recognised wherever he goes, especially in Manchester, where United supporters remember his role in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern in the Nou Camp in Barcelona, where Sir Alex Ferguson’s team scored twice in the dying minutes to overturn a 1-0 deficit and lift the European Cup for the second time.
“It was unbelievable,” Collina said. “It was the most dramatic three minutes of my career – I still watch the DVD. The atmosphere was fantastic. If you looked at the stands, it was just one black wave of 90,000 people moving on three floors. The game itself was important, but nothing special.

“Bayern deserved to win – the Manchester United goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, was the man of the match. No one thought that United could score a second goal. I remember the United bench telling their players that the game was over because they were happy to go to extra time.”

And then he is on his feet, right hand outstretched and ready to shoot off to his next engagement. “Please make sure you write what I said about Lazio,” he said. “I want people to know the truth. This is something that I would like to sort out.”

(Ali Alkatiri)
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