Balkanski Professor of Physics & Applied Physics, Harvard University Peer Instruction Inventor
His withering glare and incorruptible dedication to fairness and sportsmanship made Pierluigi Collina football’s most famous and respected referee. Away from the game, he is a successful investor, devoted philanthropist, and remarkably entertaining speaker. Collina’s keynote addresses highlight events that celebrate preparation and poise in the most weighty and turbulent situations.
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The world’s most iconic football referee, keynote speaker Pierluigi Collina turned a sterling reputation on the pitch into business success. An entertaining and motivational speaker, Pierluigi Collina offers audiences worldwide a unique perspective on managing turbulence under pressure.
One of the most recognized and respected people in sport isn’t an athlete. Pierluigi Collina refereed football at its highest levels, establishing an unmatched legacy of preparation, willpower, and devotion to fair play.
When it became clear that a career as a professional footballer wasn’t in the cards, 17-year-old Collina took to officiating. He rose through the ranks while graduating cum laude from the University of Bologna and working as a financial consultant. After completing his military service, Collina spent just three seasons in Italy’s lower divisions before his promotion to Serie A.
After just 43 fixtures in the Serie A spotlight, Collina was named to FIFA’s international referee’s list. His first major assignment was the 1996 Olympic final between Nigeria and Argentina. In a match featuring vastly different styles of play, Collina made two bookings in the early minutes. The match settled down into an all-time classic, with Nigeria coming from behind to take Africa’s first Olympic gold.
Collina became a colossal figure on the international circuit, refereeing countless World Cup qualifiers and other crucial matches. After working the 1999 Champions League final, Collina reached the pinnacle of his profession at the 2002 World Cup.
Perhaps his crowning achievement came a year after his age-mandated retirement. In 2006, a corruption scandal rocked Italian football. In effect, only two referees, Collina and Roberto Rosetti, remained clear of scandal. The chief offender complained that Collina was hopelessly incorruptible and “too objective” to be bought.
After retirement, Collina led Serie A referees, then served as UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer. He now chairs FIFA’s Referee’s Committee and runs an investment firm. Collina has served as an ambassador for both the Red Cross and FIFA. His 2003 memoir, Rules of the Game, was translated into more than 10 languages.
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