Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Refs rue Serie A pressure

One of Italy's top referees admits it is a thankless and almost impossible task to officiate in Italy saying, "If you make a mistake, next day you can't leave your home."

Francesco Totti & Nicola RizzoliNicola Rizzoli is generally considered to be one of the best Serie A men in black and gave a revealing interview on the often-maligned profession.

"The only way to avoid controversy is to change the sporting culture in this country," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport. "In Italy defeat is unacceptable and so the referee always provides an easy excuse.

"Our errors can decide a result, but you have to consider them part of the game and accept them just as you would a missed penalty, not make a national crisis out of it.

"For example, we cannot explain our decisions after matches. In Scotland it is normal for a referee from Glasgow to officiate the derby, but here it is unthinkable. If you make a mistake, next day you can't leave your home."

The Calciopoli scandal in 2006 hit the credibility of referees even harder, but Rizzoli maintains the so-called 'psychological submissiveness' to big clubs is non-existent.

"It is only in the heads of those players who come to us before kick-off and say 'Don't make your decisions one-way.'

"A referee does not distinguish between the team colours at the start of a match. It is not less risky to make a mistake with the big clubs, as I know full well that any error always brings a heavy price."

Rizzoli hit the headlines when he failed to flash the red card to Roma captain Francesco Totti, who was caught on camera aiming a torrent of abuse at the referee - repeating "vaffanculo" ("f**k you") several times - in a 3-1 win at Udinese last April.

"Not sending him off was the worst mistake I ever made. It all started when I took the wrong position in the middle of the box. I interpreted the insults as a reaction to the situation and not aimed directly at me, but looking back I realised I was wrong.

"I am well aware that error might've cost me my career. A referee is finished if he is no longer credible. In hindsight, that incident made me mature and (the designator of the Italian Referees Association (AIA)) Pierluigi Collina also helped by explaining why he couldn’t let me referee in Serie A for a little while.

"I would've liked Totti to have apologised personally and he did so in the newspapers, but when we next met he pretended nothing had ever happened."

Rizzoli warned the players that they are responsible for what happens on the field every bit as much as the referee.

"Simulation will continue until players realise they are not just conning the referee, but all their colleagues and the fans, too.

"There is no sense of collaboration with the referee. Some charismatic figures make their protests so obvious in order to intimidate younger referees and fire up the fans. They don't set a good example."

When asked if the players he was referring to were Gennaro Gattuso and Cristiano Doni, Rizzoli did not back down.

"You said the names, not me, but they fit the bill. As for positive role models, Roberto Baggio and now Paolo Maldini represent the exact opposite to that behaviour."

Source: C4 Football Italia

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