Great Britain – Australia Referee: Salima Mukansanga (RWA) Assistant Referee 1: Bernadettar Kwimbira (MWI) Assistant Referee 2: Mary Njoroge (KEN) Fourth Official: Edina Alves (BRA) VAR: Benoit Millot (FRA) AVAR: Fu Ming (CHN)
Sweden – Japan Referee: Lucila Venegas (MEX) Assistant Referee 1: Mayte Chavez (MEX) Assistant Referee 2: Enedina Caudillo (MEX) Fourth Official: Melissa Borjas (HON) VAR: Mauro Vigliano (ARG) AVAR: Andres Cunha (URU)
Netherlands – USA Referee: Kate Jacewicz (AUS) Assistant Referee 1: Kim Kyoung Min (KOR) Assistant Referee 2: Lee Seul Gi (KOR) Fourth Official: Yoshimi Yamashita (JPN) VAR: Abdulla Al-Marri (QAT) AVAR: Muhammad Bin Jahari (SIN)
After an impressive career in which he led no fewer than nine international finals, Björn Kuipers stops refereeing. The 48-year-old referee has come to realize during his holiday that after the European Championship final at the beginning of this month he has experienced everything he has ever dreamed of. There is, therefore, no better time to put an end to it. The match for the Johan Cruyff Super Cup on Saturday, 7 August, between Ajax and PSV will be his very last match. Kuipers already had it in his head before the European Championship. If he would have refereed the final, it would have meant the end of his career - stopping at your peak, as it is so beautifully called. However, that decision turned out not to be as easy as he first thought. "After the European Championship final, I received so many positive reactions and appreciation from all over the world that I started to have doubts. Moreover, I am still fit and enjoy it a lot. I, therefore, decided to think about it during my vacation. There I came to realize that I have been everywhere and experienced everything. It doesn't get any more beautiful than this. There is no better time to stop."
Kuipers cannot stop talking when he is asked about his highlights. In addition to the recent European Championship final, he also refereed the final of the Champions League in 2014 between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, twice the final of the Europa League (2013 and 2018) and the final of the Confederations Cup in 2013. Still, the UEFA Cup match between Napoli and Benfica in 2008 is the first game that comes to mind. "This was the turning point in my career. The chairman of the referees committee sat in the stands as UEFA observer and I refereed a very good game. I was then awarded the European U-21 Championship final and was promoted to the Elite List. From that moment on, I realized I could reach the absolute top." And it worked. Team Kuipers became a household name all over the world. With the emphasis on the team, because the referee knows better than anyone that he also owes his success to his regular assistants Sander van Roekel and Erwin Zeinstra. "We have worked together very intensively for over 10 years. We had a lot of fun, but we were also excellently able to keep each other on our toes. At the beginning of our collaboration, I always had a chat before we went out on the field, but that was no longer necessary in recent years. Everyone knew exactly what was required of him. We trusted each other blindly, but also dared to tell each other the truth. That has been the basis of our success."
Digging into his memory also comes to mind when UEFA referee boss Pierluigi Collina called him to preside over the 2018 Europa League final between Olympique Marseille and Atletico Madrid. "Are you ready for another match?" he asked while I was already preparing for the World Cup during my holiday. I was amazed that he asked me, because I had already refereed the Europa League final five years earlier. "Basically, you don't get a match like that twice. They wanted a pair of safe hands for this game. And that's why they came to me. The fact that they made an exception was a huge compliment." He also received nice words from FIFA boss Gianni Infantino this month after the European Championship final: "Number one referee, you've changed football, he said to me. He was referring to the decision three years ago to do the VAR trial match between Italy and France completely online, i.e. with direct communication between the video assistant and the referee. That was not FIFA's plan in the first place. But because I said that we, as KNVB, were ready for it, they changed it." After returning from the European Championship final in London, Kuipers and his team received a hero's welcome at Schiphol. Federal chairman Just Spee distinguished the three as national knight. "That was a nice surprise that I'm proud of."
However, the match itself in particular causes goosebumps on Kuipers' arms. "The most beautiful moment was the national anthems. I looked around and saw a full stadium singing along with full blast. And I knew that my family, including my children, was also in the stands", said Kuipers. The European Championship final will be etched in his memory forever. "Of course, it was a fantastic atmosphere and a unique duel, but I am also very happy that we did well. It was a worthy international farewell to me as a referee." Kuipers also remembers a less pleasant experience. "We had to go home from the 2014 World Cup, because the Netherlands came in the last four. In the end, both the Orange and us were not on the field during the final. That was a huge disappointment."
Despite all the international successes, Kuipers also had to whistle his matches in the Netherlands every week. And so, it could happen that a few days after a Champions League match, he refereed in significantly smaller stadiums. "Of course, the experience in the run-up to such a duel is different. But once we went on the field, we were just as sharp. Because of our reputation, everyone expected a good performance from us. The urge to always be on top and not to give up was precisely one of my motivations as a referee." During his early years, however, Kuipers sometimes had doubts. "I really struggled in my first three matches in the Erste Divisie. Even after that I had sometimes not so good matches. But, luckily, people around me have always kicked me in the butt on time. They made me realize that I referee a lot of good matches in a year and that I should not be guided by those few times that things go a little less than expected. I owe the KNVB and especially my coach Jaap Uilenberg a lot of thanks for always having faith in me. I'm actually grateful to a lot of people who have supported me." A strange period is now beginning for Kuipers. "The refereeing has had a significant impact on my life and certainly also on my family. I have had to constantly consider the matches and the training schedule. It will take some time getting used to the fact that this is no longer necessary. However, I do not expect my agenda to be empty any time soon, since I am an entrepreneur and have, among other things, two supermarkets. In addition, I want to be involved in refereeing. It would be a shame if I did not do anything with it. I would like to remain involved. For the time being, however, I am still reminiscing because they were wonderful years."
HJK Helsinki – Malmö FF Referee: Stuart Attwell (ENG) Assistant Referee 1: Harry Lennard (ENG) Assistant Referee 2: Nick Hopton (ENG) Fourth Official: Robert Jones (ENG) Referee Observer: Rune Pedersen (NOR)
Žalgiris Vilnius – Ferencvarosi TC Referee: Erik Lambrechts (BEL) Assistant Referee 1: Rien Vanyzere (BEL) Assistant Referee 2: Jo De Weirdt (BEL) Fourth Official: Wim Smet (BEL) Referee Observer: Martin Ingvarsson (SWE)
Sheriff Tiraspol – Alashkert FC Referee: Bojan Pandzic (SWE) Assistant Referee 1: Peter Allheim (SWE) Assistant Referee 2: Max Wilde (SWE) Fourth Official: Kaspar Sjöberg (SWE) Referee Observer: Yuri Baskakov (RUS)
Neftçi PFK – Olympiakós FC Referee: Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea (ESP) Assistant Referee 1: Roberto Díaz Pérez (ESP) Assistant Referee 2: Jon Núñez Fernández (ESP) Fourth Official: Adrián Cordero Vega (ESP) Referee Observer: Tomasz Mikulski (POL)
Honka Espoo – NK Domžale Referee: Peter Královič (SVK) Assistant Referee 1: Milan Štrbo (SVK) Assistant Referee 2: Erik Weiss (SVK) Fourth Official: Pavel Ochotnický (SVK) Referee Observer: Dejan Filipović (SRB)
Birkirkara FC – Olimpija Ljubljana Referee: Bram Van Driessche (BEL) Assistant Referee 1: Yves De Neve (BEL) Assistant Referee 2: Kevin Monteny (BEL) Fourth Official: Kevin Van Damme (BEL) Referee Observer: Igor Pristovnik (CRO)
FC Vaduz – Újpest FC Referee: Christian Ciochirca (AUT) Assistant Referee 1: Robert Steinacher (AUT) Assistant Referee 2: Michael Obritzberger (AUT) Fourth Official: René Eisner (AUT) Referee Observer: Edgar Steinborn (GER)
BK Häcken – Aberdeen FC Referee: Ádám Farkas (HUN) Assistant Referee 1: Balázs Szert (HUN) Assistant Referee 2: Balázs Szalai (HUN) Fourth Official: Sándor Andó-Szabó (HUN) Referee Observer: Jørn West Larsen (DEN)
Maccabi Tel Aviv – FK Sutjeska Referee: Peter Kjaersgaard (DEN) Assistant Referee 1: Victor Skytte (DEN) Assistant Referee 2: Jesper Dahl (DEN) Fourth Official: Jakob Sundberg (DEN) Referee Observer: Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)
Bohemian FC – F91 Diddeleng Referee: Gergő Bogár (HUN) Assistant Referee 1: Vencel Tóth (HUN) Assistant Referee 2: Péter Garai (HUN) Fourth Official: Bence Csonka (HUN) Referee Observer: Stephen Lodge (ENG)
NK Maribor – Hammarby IF Referee: Juan Martínez Munuera (ESP) Assistant Referee 1: Diego Barbero Sevilla (ESP) Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Martínez Munuera (ESP) Fourth Official: Santiago Jaime Latre (ESP) Referee Observer: Fritz Stuchlik (AUT)
KF Vllaznia – AEL Limassol Referee: Robert Harvey (IRL) Assistant Referee 1: Wayne McDonnell (IRL) Assistant Referee 2: Darragh Keegan (IRL) Fourth Official: Raymond Matthews (IRL) Referee Observer: Mark Whitby (WAL)
Breidablik – Austria Wien Referee: Paul McLaughlin (IRL) Assistant Referee 1: Robert Clarke (IRL) Assistant Referee 2: Dermot Broughton (IRL) Fourth Official: Damien McGraith (IRL) Referee Observer: Georgi Yordanov (BUL)
Santa Clara – FC Shkupi Referee: Robert Hennessy (IRL) Assistant Referee 1: Allen Lynch (IRL) Assistant Referee 2: Emmett Dynan (IRL) Fourth Official: John McLoughlin (IRL) Referee Observer: Luis Medina Cantalejo (ESP)
Germany – Cote d’Ivoire Referee: Leodan Gonzalez (URU, photo) Assistant Referee 1: Nicolas Taran (URU) Assistant Referee 2: Richard Trinidad (URU) Fourth Official: Christopher Beath (AUS) VAR: Mauro Vigliano (ARG) AVAR: Roi Reinshreiber (ISR)
Saudi Arabia – Brazil Referee: Bamlak Tessema (ETH) Assistant Referee 1: Mohammed Ibrahim (SDN) Assistant Referee 2: Gilbert Cheruiyot (KEN) Fourth Official: Srdjan Jovanovic (SRB) VAR: Benoit Millot (FRA) AVAR: Tiago Martins (POR)
Romania – New Zealand Referee: Kevin Ortega (PER) Assistant Referee 1: Michael Orue (PER) Assistant Referee 2: Jesus Sanchez (PER) Fourth Official: Hiroyuki Kimura (JPN) VAR: Andres Cunha (URU) AVAR: Erick Miranda (MEX)
Korea – Honduras Referee: Georgi Kabakov (BUL) Assistant Referee 1: Diyan Valkov (BUL) Assistant Referee 2: Martin Margaritov (BUL) Fourth Official: Victor Gomes (RSA) VAR: Adil Zourak (MAR) AVAR: Abdulkadir Bitigen (TUR)
Australia – Egypt Referee: Artur Dias (POR) Assistant Referee 1: Rui Tavares (POR) Assistant Referee 2: Paulo Soares (POR) Fourth Official: Jesus Valenzuela (VEN) VAR: Pawel Raczkowski (POL) AVAR: Fu Ming (CHN)
South Africa – Mexico Referee: Matthew Conger (NZL) Assistant Referee 1: Mark Rule (NZL) Assistant Referee 2: Tevita Makasini (TGA) Fourth Official: Orel Grinfeeld (ISR) VAR: Marco Guida (ITA) AVAR: Muhammad Bin Jahari (SIN)
France – Japan Referee: Ivan Barton (SLV) Assistant Referee 1: David Moran (SLV) Assistant Referee 2: Zachari Zeegelaar (SUR) Fourth Official: Dahane Beida (MTN) VAR: Nicolas Gallo (COL) AVAR: Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb (GER)
Colombian Wilmar Roldan (41) recently became the referee with the most matches in the history of the Copa Libertadores. Defensa y Justicia - Palmeiras was his 89th match in South America's top international club competition, surpassing Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay), who retired with 88 games.
Roldan referee spoke with Antena 2's ‘The Ball Owners’ and stated that he was very proud of such an important achievement. “Becoming the referee with the most matches refereed historically is very important to me. I thank all the people who have believed in me, my family and God. I will continue to improve day-by-day to raise the reputation of Colombian and CONMEBOL refereeing. I will continue to prepare for whatever comes my way". Professional referee since 2003, Roldan received his FIFA badge in January 2008, when he was only 28, and has been considered by CONMEBOL as one of their top referees, being named the best South American referee in 2013. Roldan refereed three Libertadores finals in 2012, 2013 and 2014.