Role Models, Part 2:
Scandinavian referees feature strongly in my next part; referees that I consider my role models.
Anders Frisk – “You have to shine in your personality, because if you do not the players will destroy you.”
The flamboyant Frisk officiated over 118 international games during his career. No stranger to violent incidents directed at him, he has been a well known figure in Sweden since 1995 when a Djurgårdens supporter ran on to the pitch and attacked him with a kung-fu style kick.
“Back in the mid-1980s, when I listened to older guys officiating in the Premier League in Sweden, I remember some looking up the referee schedules to see the televised game for the week. ‘Dammit!’ they would say if the game was a televised match. ‘Today we have to run!’”
“I have never had a problem with fanatical crowds, never been afraid to make a decision on any pitch,” says Frisk.
In Sept04 Frisk was forced to abandon a match between AS Roma and Dynamo Kiev at the Stadio Olimpico in the group stage of the 2004-05 Champions League after he was hit by a lighter thrown from the stands as he walked off the field at half-time. He was seen to be bleeding quite heavily and subsequently abandoned the match.
UEFA eventually awarded the match to Dynamo Kiev as a 0-3 forfeit, and ordered that Roma play its remaining two home fixtures in the group stage behind closed doors.
Asked about the abandonment of the game, he says: “[When I was younger referee in the lower leagues] I showed a yellow card twice to the goalkeeper. He picked up the goalposts, which he had brought for the game, and took them home. So [the game in] Rome wasn’t the first abandoned match I have been involved with!”
Frisk was sadly forced into early retirement in 2005 due to pressure from death threats made against him and his family. These death threats were made by Chelsea fans because Frisk sent off Didier Drogba in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League against FC Barcelona.
On 19 December 2005, Frisk was awarded FIFA’s Presidential Award as “recognition for a career cut short following death threats against his family”. The referee for the World Cup Final in 2002, Pierluigi Collina, later wrote in his autobiography that Frisk had been the only other official that he had considered to have the credentials to receive the Final appointment.
Frisk has followed the work of Dr Willi Railo, the Swedish sports psychologist who worked with Sven-Göran Eriksson’s England team, and also Ylva Loof, a Swedish actress who in 1995 was invited to the Swedish referees course and taught young referees the art of body language.
“From her,” he says, “I started my journey to develop my body language, my communication skills. I think it has been a fantastic tool for the referee.”
The advice he gave to his co-referees before each and every match: “Remember, we will give the home side what they deserve — not more. And we will give the away team what they deserve — not less.”
Kim Milton Nielsen – “Even sarcastic play is not allowed – the referee cannot accept that”
Nielsen began refereeing at 15 years old and he was awarded his FIFA international badge in 1988 at the relative young age of 28. The phlegmatic Great Dane is noted for his impressive height (1.96m) thus towering over most players and controlling matches with his natural authority. The equivalent of the golfing world’s Big Easy, Nielsen was an official that exuded calmness and a relaxed attitude towards players during his career.
He took charge of 154 Internationals and 53 Champions League matches. Nielsen says while he was honoured to be on the same field as the world’s best players, he is the man in charge and he made sure the players knew it: “I am the chief over 90 minutes. It’s always important that you maintain control of a match and if you are too impressed by the players around you, you will lose your authority.”
In the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, he took charge of two matches, including the clash between England and Argentina in Saint-Étienne, where he is remembered for sending off England’s David Beckham for kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone after the Argentinian had fouled him. England went on to lose the match on penalties, and Beckham was blamed and vilified by the English tabloids for causing the loss as a result of his sending-off.
“He infuriated one nation, delighted another, and ensured a busy time for Denmark’s postal service” was how the BBC News reported the incident then – see here.
He had this to say about the France 1998 incident: “I received many letters from England, and I was most impressed by the Danish postal service. Letters addressed to “World Cup referee, Denmark” got to me!”
At UEFA Euro 2000, Nielsen was put in charge of the two matches, although the tourney ended in disappointment for him as he was forced out of the competition with a leg injury.
In the 2002 FIFA World Cup represented another milestone for him as he officiated the semi-final between Brazil and Turkey. He received another accolade when he was appointed as referee for the 2004 UEFA Champions League final between AS Monaco FC and FC Porto.
In 2007 Nielsen made a short return to football as he took charge of the final in the Homeless World Cup in Copenhagen, and as well as officiating in 2008 the Homeless World Cup in Melbourne, Australia.