A look that seems to penetrate walls, a whistle in his mouth and the FIFA badge on his chest. That's probably how Pierluigi Collina has engraved himself in the minds of most football fans. But the Italian former referee has much more to offer than just his characteristic stare. He was also one of the best, if not the best, referees in the world. Today, Collina celebrates his 60th birthday.
Born in 1960, Collina began his refereeing career at the age of 17. In 1991 he refereed his first game in the Italian top division, overseeing 240 Serie A matches throughout his career. He was promoted early on to FIFA referee after only 43 Serie A matches. One of the highlights of his journey to become one of the world's top referees was the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. There he led a total of five games, including the final between Nigeria and Argentina (3-2).
Referee of a memorable final and record holder
Another highlight in Collina's career was the UEFA Champions League final in 1999, a memorable match in which Manchester United snatched the title from Bayern Munich by scoring two goals in injury time. Collina later described this as the most memorable match of his career. The fact that he was already one of the best referees in the world was emphasised by receiving the World's Best Referee award a year earlier in 1998. He was able to defend this title six times in a row until 2003, a record unmatched in number and in consecutive wins.
Collina reached the pinnacle of his career on 30 June 2002, when he was the referee for the final match between Germany and Brazil at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Two objects from this tournament commemorating Collina’s status and importance for football are on display at the FIFA World Football Museum, including his jersey from the group match between Argentina and England and his medal from the Final.
Happy birthday, Pierluigi
Three years after the World Cup Final in 2002, Collina stepped down from his active refereeing career. But he has remained a prominent part of the football world. Among other things, he has led the UEFA Referees' Committee from 2010 to 2018 as well as the FIFA Referees’ Committee since 2017.
Today Pierluigi Collina is 60 years old. The FIFA Museum team wishes him a happy birthday and many more successful years in football.