Sports Nicknames - Kojak

Referees do not have it easy. They are often seen as the enemy of both teams by both supporters and if they get a decision wrong, it could affect the fate of an entire club. That's why it's so impressive that Italian referee Pierluigi Collina is almost universally considered the best football referee of all time.

Profile art - Pierluigi Collina - Kojak - Soccer referee - One of the best.  Drawing.  Illustration.

Collina had a spectacular rise through the ranks as a referee, starting at a local level in 1980. By 1988, he was officiating national matches in Serie C1 and Serie C2 before rising up to Italy's top division three seasons later.

One of the most noticeable aspects of Collina was his look. He contracted a severe form of alopecia, removing just about all the hair on his head. This gave him a very distinct and intimidating look. It also earned him the name of Kojak, as people thought he looked similar to the main character in the 70's American detective crime drama.

Pierluigi Collina would go on to officiate one of the most famous matches in football history; the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, where Manchester United came from behind to win in the final two minutes of the match against Bayern Munich.

Collina was so highly regarded that the Italian Football Association tried to raise the age of mandatory retirement for him, as well as Italian Referees Association attempting to reject his retirement resignation.

'Kojak' did not completely leave the world of football, as he refereed multiple charity matches after his retirement. Collina has also been head of referees for the Football Federation of Ukraine since 2010 and has been criticised for not spending time in Ukraine for this position.


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