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Ranking the top 15 best football referees of all time in the world
Football is among the games with the most fans and spectators globally. Every game must have a referee who must interpret and enforce the laws of the sport during a match. The best football referees have integrity, good judgment, good communication skills, and courage. They ensure fair play on the field.
The best football referees have had long-running careers in football. They understand all the nitty-gritties of the sport and ensure all players abide by the game's rules and requirements.
Best football referees of all time
Great judgment by a football referee is a byproduct of effort and experience. The general rule to apply is if there is no advantage gained, and if no player is disadvantaged, there should be no call. Read on to discover the best referee in the world in 2023 and more details about them.
15. Kim Milton Nielsen
- Full name: Kim Milton Nielsen
- Date of birth: 3rd August 1960
- Age: 62 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Copenhagen, Denmark
Did you know Kim Milton Nielsen is an IT manager by trade? The retired referee started refereeing at 15. His towering height of 196 centimetres made him taller than most players. He was awarded his FIFA international badge in 1988.
14. Sándor Puhl
- Full name: Sándor Puhl
- Date of birth: 14th July 1955
- Date of demise: 20th May 2021
- Age at death: 65 years
- Place of birth: Miskolc, Hungary
Sándor Puhl is remembered for supervising four matches in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States of America. The late football official also refereed UEFA Champions League matches, including the 1997 UEFA Champions League Final.
13. Peter Mikkelsen
- Full name: Peter Mikkelsen
- Date of birth: 1st May 1960
- Date of demise: 30th January 2019
- Age at death: 58 years
- Place of birth: Amager, Denmark
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Peter Mikkelsen refereed five matches at FIFA World Cups. Two were in 1990 and three in 1994. He also referred at UEFA European Championship tournaments. Peter retired in 2008 and worked in the human resource department of F-Group, a Danish company, until his demise.
12. Michel Vautrot
- Full name: Michel Jean Maurice Vautrot
- Date of birth: 23rd October 1945
- Age: 77 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Saint-Vit, France
Michel Jean Maurice Vautrot is a retired football referee from France. He is mostly known for officiating two FIFA World Cup matches in 1982 and three in 1990. One of his career highlights was refereeing the Club World Cup final in 1983 in Tokyo.
11. Felix Brych
- Full name: Felix Brych
- Date of birth: 3rd August 1975
- Age: 47 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Munich, Germany
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Felix Brych referees for SV Am Hart München of the Bavarian Football Association. He formerly refereed FIFA matches and was ranked as a UEFA elite category referee. Brych was awarded his FIFA badge in 2007.
10. Howard Webb
- Full name: Howard Melton Webb
- Date of birth: 14th July 1971
- Age: 51 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Rotherham, United Kingdom
Howard Webb is a former professional football referee who officiated primarily in the Premier League between 2003 and 2014. He was also a FIFA international referee from 2005 to 2014. He retired from the sport to become the technical director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited.
9. Pedro Proença
- Full name: Pedro Proença Oliveira Alves Garcia
- Date of birth: 3rd November 1970
- Age: 52 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Lisbon, Portugal
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Pedro Proença has refereed various notable matches, including the Taça de Portugal finals, Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira, Taça da Liga finals, UEFA Champions League, and UEFA European Championships. In 2006–07, he was named the Portuguese Referee of the Year and was promoted to UEFA's Elite category at the start of the 2009–10 season.
8. Oscar Ruiz
- Full name: Óscar Julián Ruiz Acosta
- Date of birth: 1st November 1969
- Age: 53 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Villavicencio, Colombia
Oscar Ruiz is a former football referee who officiated in 2002, 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups. He is currently working as a referee instructor. He is also a trained lawyer.
7. Frank De Bleeckere
- Full name: Frank De Bleeckere
- Date of birth: 1st July 1966
- Age: 56 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Oudenaarde, Belgium
Frank De Bleeckere refereed in his first World Cup finals in Germany. However, he had to pass a late fitness test following an injury. He started his career in 1984 and is now retired.
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6. Bjorn Kuipers
- Full name: Björn Kuipers
- Date of birth: 28th March 1973
- Age: 49 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Oldenzaal, Netherlands
Björn Kuipers was a FIFA listed referee from 2006 to 2021. He was also a UEFA Elite group referee from 2009 to 2021. He is now retired and enjoys long e-bike rides, Grolsch beer, and getting to work with Marco van Basten.
5. Cüneyt Çakır
- Full name: Cüneyt Çakır
- Date of birth: 23rd November 1976
- Age: 46 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: İstanbul, Türkiye
Cüneyt Çakır is best known for refereeing the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus. He also appeared on the top FIFA referee rankings and was FIFA listed from 2006 until his retirement in 2010.
4. Nestor Pitana
- Full name: Néstor Fabián Pitana
- Date of birth: 17th June 1975
- Age: 47 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Corpus, Argentina
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Nestor Pitana is one of the best football referees in the world. He is an Argentine former football referee and former actor. He refereed at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Copa América.
3. Martin Atkinson
- Full name: Martin Atkinson
- Date of birth: 31st March 1971
- Age: 51 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Drighlington, United Kingdom
Martin Atkinson is one of the most famous referees in football,. He is currently working as a referee coach after retiring from professional football refereeing. He mainly officiated matches in the Premier League. He became an official in the Football League as an assistant referee in 1995 and worked his way up.
2. Mark Geiger
- Full name: Mark William Geiger
- Date of birth: 25th August 1974
- Age: 48 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Beachwood, New Jersey, United States of America
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Mark Geiger is a sports administrator and former football referee. He is the general manager of match officials at the Professional Referee Organisation. The firm oversees domestic referees in Major League Soccer.
1. Pierluigi Collina
- Full name: Pierluigi Collina
- Date of birth: 13th February 1960
- Age: 63 years (as of 2023)
- Place of birth: Bologna, Italy
Who is the best referee in the world in 2023? Pierluigi Collina was named The World's Best Referee by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics consecutively from 1998-2003.
Initially, he dreamed of making it as a professional footballer. Instead, Collina went to become the best referee of the year six consecutive times.
Recap of the best football referees of all time
Frank De Bleeckere
Kim Milton Nielsen
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Who is the best referee in football history?
Pierluigi Collina is arguably the best referee of all time. He was named The World's Best Referee by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics for six consecutive years.
Who is the best football referee?
Pierluigi Collina is arguably the best referee in the world. He officiated numerous high-profile matches.
Who is the best football referee in Europe?
Some of the best football referees in Europe are Pierluigi Collina, Mark Geiger, Felix Brych, Nestor Pitana, and Cüneyt Çakır.
Who is the best referee in the whole world?
Many people can agree that Pierluigi Collina is the best referee globally. He is now retired.
Who is the best referee in the Premier League?
The top referees in the Premier League include Paul Tierney, Simon Hooper, Andy Madley, Michael Oliver, Anthony Taylor, and Robert Jones.
Why is Pierluigi Collina the best referee?
Collina was the best referee because he was highly respected by the players, managers and fans. He had a calm authority and a sense of fair play under great pressure.
Who is the best referee in Africa?
The top African football referees are Bamlak Tessema, Bakary Gassama, Salima Rhadia Mukansanga, Victor Gomes, and Mustapha Ghorbal.
The best football referees in the world have officiated any high-profile and international matches. They are respected for facilitating fairness among all players on the pitch.
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