Europe's new male and female international referees have been given a fascinating insight into what it means to have reached this level – and what modern football wants from today's referees.
Pierluigi Collina, the Italian who enjoyed an outstanding refereeing career which took in the biggest matches in Europe and worldwide before he assumed the role of UEFA chief refereeing officer, was the ideal figure to brief the refereeing 'rookies' at the start of the latest UEFA introductory course for international referees in Lisbon. In a wide-ranging and passionate presentation, Collina made the 44 men and women referees fully aware of what UEFA and the game expects from them when they are on European duty – clear and consistent decision-making; the ability to handle crisis moments; the fitness to produce high-quality performances; and the proper conduct to inspire budding referees who also aspire to have international careers. "Welcome to you," said Collina. "It is a big achievement for you and congratulations – but consider this just as a first step. It is a privilege for you to be a FIFA referee – but you must remember that you have to give something back to refereeing and all young referees who look at you. You should be a model for other referees through your behaviour and image." Collina spoke of the challenging job that modern referees face. "Football today is all about the decisions you take. There will be different opinions about your decisions. You will need to take a decision in less than one second. There will be pressure, coming from 90,000 people in the stadium; the pressure of knowing that millions of people are watching the game live on television; the pressure of the sporting and economic importance of the result, which could be affected by your decision – a decision which will be analysed and scrutinised after the match. You must be ready to deal with this and take on the responsibility." An innate self-confidence, knowing one's strengths and weaknesses, a determination to improve and learn from mistakes and an openness to change are essential parts of a referee's armoury, Collina reflected. He urged his audience to always be one step ahead and prepare diligently – for example, by studying teams' tactical systems or set-piece routines before a match to know how they may approach the game. Trust of a referee is a "must", the Italian explained. "It is important that a referee is accepted on the field of play, even if the players do not agree with the decision or if the decision is wrong," he added. "The players must be able to continue to trust in you." The need for preparation also applies in terms of referees' fitness for present-day football. Collina emphasised that speed has been the greatest change in the game in recent years – meaning that top officials need to be in optimum physical condition. "Today's referees must be athletes. They must be 100% fit to be lucid enough to take a decision even right at the end of a match," he stressed. Collina said that administering the Laws of the Game in the correct manner is imperative. He named two important areas in this respect. Firstly, referees have to be committed in protecting players and their health, for example, in the face of serious foul play. Secondly, match officials also have to act firmly and decisively against instances of mobbing of match officials by players. Just as players form a team, Collina concluded, the referees and assistants must also function as a solid unit. "Teamwork is vital – each of the team's performance is important. Support each other, help each other, and be aware that you will never decide alone".
In his welcome address, UEFA Referees Committee chairman Angel Maria Villar Llona wished the young referees every success in their careers. "We want you to be top referees," he said. "You must want this as well. Please make the most of this opportunity. UEFA is investing considerable resources in refereeing, and you are privileged and special to have been chosen. Never forget that you are international referees representing UEFA and your associations."
The president of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), Fernando Gomes, told the delegates: "It is a pleasure for us to be able to cooperate with UEFA in organising [this event] and fulfil the objectives and goals of the UEFA Referees Committee. I hope you can profit from this occasion to improve your knowledge and improve the quality of refereeing – because I am sure that through this, football will win for the future".