Meet the referees

Find out some more about the decisive who could make or break dreams.

Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

Voted the world’s top ref in 2011, during which he refereed the Champions League final before rounding off the year nicely with a helpful display in Tallinn, when he sent off two Estonians in our 4-0 play-off first-leg win. Kassai (above) let his standards slip somewhat in the Bernabéu in April when he awarded a harsh handball against David Alaba. “He let the big match pressure get to him,” insisted Graham ‘Takes One to Know One’ Poll afterwards.

Cüneyt Çakir (Turkey)

The first Turk to referee a Champions League semi-final, Cakir’s performance in the Nou Camp gave Geoff Shreeves the opportunity to break bad news to Branislav Ivanovic and left John Terry agonising over what he’d wear for the final.

An insurance official, one of Cakir’s last assignments will have troubled the risk assessors — he handed out two red cards in the Turkish Super League decider, which ended in a riot as Fenerbahce conceded the title to bitter rivals Galatasaray.

Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)

Textbook refereeing — become a multi-millionaire early in your career and decommission those ‘How much have they paid you?’ jibes. A former journalist, Eriksson (right) made e7.5million five years ago when he sold his stake in media rights business IEC. Mind you, it didn’t stop him taking a pasting in the Spanish press when he missed two clear penalties for Barcelona in this season’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie with Milan.

Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)

The supermarket owner made up for Jonas Eriksson’s reluctance to give Barcelona penalties by handing them two in the second leg of that Milan tie. But he might have lost the whistle for the final when he told Dutch media afterwards he had ‘a good feeling’ about the way he handled the game. UEFA referees’ chief Pierluigi Collina was reportedly furious with what he regarded as a breach of his strict code of silence for officials.

Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

As an estate agent, it’s hardly the first time he was treated to a volley of expletives in an expensive development, but Skomina (right) still took great exception to Arsene Wenger chasing him down the Emirates tunnel after Arsenal just came up short against Milan this season.

The zero-tolerance Slovenian was also the fourth official who had Jogi Löw and Josef Hickersberger sent to the stands during the Euro 2008 clash of Germany and Austria.

Stéphane Lannoy (France)

His stay at the World Cup finals in South Africa was brief after he allowed Luis Fabiano handle twice en route to scoring against the Ivory Coast, then sent off Kaka for felling Kader Keita with his aura.

Attracted criticism in France for an incident five years ago when Milan Baros held his nose to imply opponent Stephane M’Bia smelled. Lannoy spoke to the players but didn’t mention the exchange in his match report. Baros was later banned for three matches.

Wolfgang Stark (Germany)

Another German banker to whom we owe a debt; Stark sent off Giampaolo Pazzini in the 2010 World Cup qualifier in Bari to help Giovanni Trapattoni’s side claim a 1-1 draw.

The Bavarian is another official who has endured a hectic end of season. After the second-leg of the Bundesliga relegation play-off, he was chased down the tunnel by Hertha Berlin players and claims he was punched by Georgian Levan Kobiashvili, against whom Stark has filed criminal assault charges.

Pedro Proença (Portugal)

Proença (right) took charge of last month’s Champions League final, a happier conclusion to a season that began on a rather sour note — he suffered two broken teeth last August when he was headbutted in a Lisbon shopping centre by an assailant thought to be a Benfica fan aggrieved at recent decisions against his side. Proença thought about quitting tweeting the next day: “What does not kill you makes you stronger. We may fall to the ground, but we will never be beaten ...”

Craig Thomson (Scotland)

Stop us if you’ve heard it before — a controversial decision in Paris to help France qualify? Thompson is Euro 2012’s Martin Hansson having awarded Samir Nasri a crucial penalty in Les Bleus’ final qualifier with Bosnia & Herzegovina despite the clash with Emir Spahic taking place outside the box.

Howard Webb (England)

A chip off the old block — no, Alex Ferguson is not his father — dad Billy refereed for 35 years and encouraged Howard to take up the whistle. Webb has a mixed record in major tournaments. In 2008, he was blamed by Polish fans for their elimination after he awarded Austria a soft injury-time penalty. He impressed enough in 2010 to be awarded the World Cup final but was widely criticised for allowing Nigel de Jong to stay on the pitch after his kung-fu landing on Xabi Alonso’s chest.

Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

Received the Best Referee gong from the Italian Footballer’s Association at the 2011 Oscar del Calcio awards. But the 41-year-old architect gained criticism and praise in equal measure for his handling of the recent Milan derby. Having mistakenly awarded AC Milan a first-half penalty in their 4-2 win, Rizzoli impressed many with the frankness of his apologies. “I am very sorry because that is a mistake that could have been avoided had I been in a different position.”

Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)

Like all Spanish referees, Carballo has occasionally been drawn into the tiresome tit-for-tat of conspiracy theories between the Barca and Real camps. In March Gerard Pique ranted that he had “a feeling of premeditation” when Carballo sent him off in Barca’s 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon. Little wonder the 41-year-old engineer — from Madrid — appears to be sick of players. He told Marca: “Referees are far more professional than footballers, because we are both coaches and players.”

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