Pierluigi Collina: The Greatest Referee In Football History
He is regarded by many as the greatest to ever blow the famous whistle.
The instantly recognisable Pierluigi Collina, a no-nonsense Italian referee known for his famous bald head and piecing eyes, remains one of the most respected figures in football, 14 years after handing in his shock resignation from officiating, aged 45.
In a glittering 28 year career of refereeing, he took charge of Champions League, World Cup and UEFA Cup finals but for many, it was Collina's larger than life personality that earned him such a respected stature.
He demanded, and in turn, earned respect from players, managers and fans around the world.
If a player decided to misbehave, the Italian would take action but he was always fair.
"You have to be accepted on the field of play not because you are the referee, but because people trust you." he said after retirement.
"This means you can reach the best result a referee can reach, which is to be accepted even when he is wrong."
This calm but stern approach to officiating earned him FIFA's "Best Referee of the Year" award six consecutive times between 1998 and 2003.
He redefined a role that was previously seen by many as dull.
Towards the end of his career, the Bologna-born official was even chosen to become Pro Evolution Soccer's cover star on two separate occasions in the mid 00's alongside Thierry Henry and Francesco Totti.
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In a time when world class players would exclusively appear on game covers, the ever-popular Collina would break that mould.
He was now one of the most recognisable and respected faces in football.
But two years later, after being accused by the Italian Football Federation of a conflict of interest after accepting a sponsorship deal, Collina decided to retire.
"After 28 years I've decided to hand in my resignation," he announced in 2005. "People must believe in a referee. In the end, we have all lost out."
"I have slept less these last few nights than on the eve of the World Cup final. For me it wouldn't have been a problem to referee in Serie B, but either they (the FIGC) have faith in us referees or they don't.
"If they don't, then we have to go. Without trust we cannot move forward."
Collina, who has since officiated a number of charity games, including Soccer Aid, went on to become a chairman on the Italian committee for Serie A and Serie B.
He was also responsible for preparation, selection and appointment of referees, and is now a part of FIFA's Refereeing Committee.
But he'll be remembered most for his influence on the pitch.
A true great of the game.
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