Former World Cup referee Nicolae Rainea passed away at the age of 81, announced UEFA and the Romanian Football Federation. Born on 19 November 1933, Rainea, who was nicknamed “The Locomotive of the Carpathians” (he ran more than 200,000 km during matches and training), started refereeing in 1959. Within six years he was officiating at first division matches and he quickly made the FIFA list, being an international referee for 17 years (1967-1983).
Over a career spanning 24 years, Rainea racked up a stellar list of matches as he became one of the most respected officials in the world. The most successful Romanian referee oversaw three Romanian Cup finals, 267 top-flight games and 115 international matches. Rainea was selected for three FIFA World Cups (1974, 1978, 1982) and was appointed to the UEFA Euro Final 1980. He also refereed four European club finals: UEFA Champions Cup 1983, UEFA Super Cup 1978 and back-to-back UEFA Cup finals in 1977 and 1978. After hanging up his whistle aged 50 he remained in football as a referee observer and regional football association president. He later became an honorary member of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) and an honorary citizen of the city Galati. After an untreated mild cold turned into a pulmonary edema, Rainea suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the hospital.