Pierluigi Collina: The Best Soccer Referee in History

Pierluigi Collina began his career in the 80s, but even today, more than a decade after his retirement, he's still remembered for his enthusiasm in the stadium.
Pierluigi Collina: The Best Soccer Referee in History

Last update: 25 September, 2020

Every soccer fan knows him. He’s an Italian man with an image so characteristic that he’s even been on the cover of one of the most famous video games. Here, we’ll take you through the career of Pierluigi Collina, possibly the best soccer referee in history. He commanded the soccer pitch not only in Italy but also in the Olympic Games and two World Cups.

Who is Pierluigi Collina?

No faithful soccer fan can say that they don’t know who Pierluigi Collina is. Surely they would say that he’s the bald referee with the penetrating stare! He energetically directs matches, including internationally.

But outside of that, there are few who really know about the life and career of this “man in black.” Despite the fact that he’s entrusted to carry out the rules in league games, Olympic Games, and World Cups.

Il signori del Calcio, as he’s known in Italy, was born in February of 1960 in Bologna. He began his career as a referee at only 17 years old. By 1988 he was already refereeing division 2 matches for the Italian league. In 1991, he debuted in the Calcium Series A. Only four years and 45 games later, he reached international refereeing status.

In addition to refereeing soccer games, Pierluigi Collina has a degree in Economic Sciences from the University of Bologna. He’s a fan of Lazio, a team he refereed for on 40 different occasions. He became bald in the 80s after suffering from alopecia at only 24 years old.

This never made him feel bad, quite the opposite. “The players respect me more for my appearance”! He said on one occasion. In addition to his baldness, his bulging eyes and lack of eyebrows also give him a severe and authoritarian air. And that’s not even taking into consideration his vehemence when sanctioning a foul!

Pierluigi Collina

Collina as an international soccer referee

A year after his assignment as an international referee, Pierluigi Collina was chosen to serve in the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996.

In this athletic event, he issued rulings in four games. The slight victory of Spain over Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Japan (both games between the teams). Also, the 2-1 win of Portugal over France in the quarterfinals, and the final in which Nigeria beat Argentina 3-2.

During the French World Cup in 1998, Collina refereed the victory of the French 2-1 over Denmark, as well as the 0-0 tie between the Netherlands and Belgium. 

In 1999, he also refereed the final of the UEFA Champions League between the Bayern of Munich, Germany, and Manchester United of England. This game was played in the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. In this game, the Reds won 2-1.

For the championship between Korea and Japan in 2002, he refereed the 1-0 victory of England over Argentina, as well as the match between Turkey and Japan. He also refereed the final, in which Brazil became the champions by beating Germany 2-0.

At the same time, he was in charge of refereeing the final for the UEFA Cup in 2003. In this match, Valencia from Spain defeated Marseille from France 2-0.

His life outside of refereeing

The year 2003 was possibly one of the years that most helped Collina become a figure that was known both within and outside of the stadiums. This is due to the fact that, on the one hand, he published a book named My Rules of The Game. On the other hand, he appeared on the cover of the video game Pro Evolution Soccer 3. He’s the only person until now that’s ever appeared on the cover of a video game without being a professional player.

In 2005, after more than a 15-year career, Pierluigi Collina decided to retire from refereeing. He was named the best referee of all time by the International Federation of the History and Statistics of Soccer (IFFHS).

Referee Pierluigi Collina

While he developed his professional career in economics in Bologna, he was consulted many times by soccer associations. This made him an advisor to the Association of Italian Soccer Referees (AIA).

Between 2010 and 2018, he served as head of referring to the UEFA. During his presidency in the refereeing committee of FIFA, he was a great defender of the system of video refereeing, the infamous VAR.

Pierluigi Collina, a soccer referee who made history

There’s no doubt that Pierluigi Collina was one of the best referees in history. He was known internationally not only for his appearance but also for his philosophy when it came time to make decisions inside the stadium. Despite the fact that he never scored important goals or won titles, all soccer fans know him well.

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