Without referees, there’s no football, says FIFA President Gianni Infantino

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee on Friday highlighted the issue of violence against referees and termed it as a “cancer” for football in the summit held for delegates from FIFA Member Associations attending the FIFA Football Summit 2023.

In his impassioned concluding remarks, President Infantino underscored the pivotal role referees played in the sport, labeling them as FIFA’s “Team One.”

“Without referees, there’s no football,” said Gianni to FIFA. “We all have to fight…against any sort of abuse and violence against referees, but also to bring back respect and tolerance.”

“This starts with us, this starts with you, with the leaders of football, with the way we speak, with the way we act…We have to take responsibility (as) what we do has an impact on many girls and boys – not just a positive one but also a negative one.”

The urgency of the message was underscored by the recent shocking incident involving FIFA referee Halil Umut Meler, who was attacked at the end of a Turkish Süper Lig match. The incident served as a stark reminder that the issue extended beyond top-level football and was not confined to a specific region.

Pierluigi Collina, a revered figure in the world of refereeing, expressed concern about the pervasive nature of referee abuse, extending even to amateur leagues and grassroots football. Collina implored football leaders worldwide to take decisive action, labeling referee abuse as the “cancer that can kill football.

“Most of these referees face verbal or even physical assaults. They are verbally and physically abused. And those who abuse them, most of the time, are the parents of the boys and girls who are playing the match. This is not acceptable. Enough is enough. This is the cancer that can kill football. It’s true. I beg the leaders of football around the world to do something before it is too late. Enough is enough.”

Szymon Marciniak, who officiated the FIFA World Cup 2022 final in his appeal to FIFA Member Associations, emphasized the vital role referees played in upholding fair play rules. He called for unwavering support from associations and urged the inclusion of young talents in the refereeing ranks.

“Of course, players are the most important, but we need to remember that there will be no game, there will be no fair play rules without referees. This is true. And that’s why my huge request to all federations, to all associations, is to support referees as much as possible, to invite young people to become referees.”

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