Best Referees in the World – The game of football has evolved dramatically over the years, growing in popularity around the world and becoming an essential part of modern culture. From pitch to pitch, country to country, the game remains largely the same. There are few constants in this massive world of football but one of them is that there will always be referees to call fouls and keep the peace on and off the field.
While not all referees are created equal, these 10 are widely regarded as the best football referees in the world today. And they are not only admired for their ability to enforce the rules of the game, but also for their fairness, competence, and consistency in making calls during matches.
Top 10 Best Referees in the World
1. Mark Geiger
An American FIFA referee, Mark Geiger has officiated matches in both the MLS (Major League Soccer) and NASL (North American Soccer Leagues). He’s been a FIFA referee since 2008 and was appointed to the FIFA International Referees List the same year 2019. Geiger has officiated at three CONCACAF Gold Cups, as well as the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.
He was also the first American referee to officiate a knockout match at a World Cup tournament. Before he took up the refereeing career, he was a high school mathematics teacher.
2. Martin Atkinson
Hailing from Yorkshire, England, Atkinson is one of the most experienced referees on the list. He began officiating in 1995 and has since officiated over 400 Premier League matches. Atkinson is known for his no-nonsense approach and strict enforcement of the rules.
His wealth of experience makes him a top choice for high-stakes matches and he has officiated at several major tournaments, including the 2010 World Cups, as well as Euro 2008, 2012 and 2016. He was also named FIFA’s Referee of the Year and is currently one of only a handful of English referees on FIFA’s International Referees List.
3. Nestor Pitana
Néstor Pitana is an Argentine professional football referee. He has been a full international referee for FIFA since 2010. He officiated at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Copa América. He is widely considered to be one of the best referees in the world.
He started officiating at the Primera B Nacional in Argentina in 2006 and has now worked his way up to become the second referee to take charge of an opening game and the final in the same tournament, Horacio Elizondo, a former Argentine referee being the first in 2006.
4. Cüneyt Çakır
Cüneyt Çakır is a former Turkish football referee who has been officiating since 2001. He is widely regarded as one of the best referees in the world, having officiated at multiple FIFA World Cups and UEFA European Championships. In 2006, he got FIFA listed and also became a member of the UEFA Elite in 2010.
Out of all the referees out there, he has one of the most accurate and controversial decisions and has been named the second-best referee in the world by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
5. Björn Kuipers
Björn Kuipers is a former Dutch professional football referee who has been officiating since 2002. He was a FIFA-listed and UEFA Elite referee from 2006 to 2021. He has officiated at numerous high-profile matches, including the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Kuipers is widely regarded as one of the best referees in the world. In recent years, he was ranked among the top five by various media outlets.
6. Frank De Bleeckere
Frank De Bleeckere is a Belgian ex-football referee who has been officiating matches since 1984 and also the first referee to win the Belgian Professional Referee of the Year award seven times in thirteen years.
He has been a FIFA-licensed referee since 1998. De Bleeckere has officiated matches in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and FIFA World Cup.
He is widely considered to be one of the best referees in the world for his strictness and controversial decisions at times.
7. Oscar Ruiz
Oscar Ruiz is a former Colombian football referee and lawyer by profession. He has been officiating matches since 1995 and is widely regarded as one of the best referees in the world while officiating at some of the biggest competitions, including the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League.
He is not one to make a controversial decision as most of his is pretty accurate, except during the match between France and South Africa where he unnecessarily sent off Yoann Gourcuff in the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament.
8. Pierluigi Collina
Pierluigi Collina is an Italian former football referee who is widely considered to be the best football referee of all time. He is known for his distinctive bald head as a result of developing Alopecia, which earned him the nickname, “Kojak“. Collina was born in Italy in 1960 and began refereeing in 1988 in the Serie C2 league, the third-highest division in the Italian football league system.
He quickly rose through the ranks of Italian football and became a FIFA-licensed referee in 1995. Collina officiated at some of the biggest matches in history, including the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final.
9. Felix Brych
Felix Brych is a German football referee who has been officiating since 1999. He is considered one of the best referees in the world and is both a FIFA and UEFA elite category referee. The world-class referee also got an IFHHS World’s Best Man Referee of the Decade 2011-2020 award.
He has officiated at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League. Brych is known for his calm demeanour and his ability to make quick decisions. He is also a professor of law, which helps him understand the rules of the game better than most referees.
10. Pedro Proença
Pedro Proença is a Portuguese football referee who has been officiating since 1998 and retired in 2015. He has refereed matches in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and FIFA World Cup. He is widely considered to be one of the best referees in the world. He was elected as president of the Liga Portugal in 2015 when he retired.
Pedro was well-known because of his controversies-unmarred career and also the first Portuguese to officiate a European Championship final and the UEFA Champions League final in the same year.
Frequently Asked Questions
FIFA referees are some of the highest-paid officials in all of sports. A top-tier referee can earn up to $92,000 per year, while lower-level officials make between $50,000 and $55,000 annually. FIFA also pays for travel and accommodations at tournaments, making it a very lucrative gig for those who are good enough to make the cut.
Back in the day, referees must retire at the age of 45. But the rules has been abolished as announced by the FIFA Executive Committee, on the condition that referees over 45 will be getting a yearly evaluation.
When it comes to football, there is a lot of debate surrounding who the best referees are. Some argue that the best referees are those who never make mistakes, while others say that the best referees are those who manage to keep the peace on the pitch. Whichever opinion you hold, one thing remains clear: all officials have a tough job and deserve respect for their work.
- Best Referees in the World – Authoritysoccer.com