Documentary Kill the referee (with English subtitles)

The documentary Kill the referee is published online and English subtitles are added as well. Now we’re all at home in lockdown, this documentary is a great thing to watch.  

When it released I’ve written a newspaper story for it. I’ve updated that, because that makes it more relevant. You can also find the full clip below.

Massimo Busacca: we are not gods

Referee Massimo Busacca squatted on the ground. He takes a quiet moment for himself in preparation of the match Sweden versus Greece at the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, his home country.

There’s a rosary on the table in the dressing room. Busacca makes the cross sign, he’s ready for it. Together with is assistants he leaves the quietness of the changing room to deliver a good performance with roaring crowds in the stadium.

This intimate moment from the movie Kill the referee (originally produced as Les Arbitres) shows the human aspects of the referees. And that’s exactly what Uefa aims with this documentary. The European soccer association and their referee committee want to show that the top referees are normal people who prepare professionally and they want to set a quality performance.

In regular sport broadcasts the players get full attention. But when a referee’s name is in the pages of the newspapers or on the tv programmes, there’s a big chance he made a mistake. Two recent examples are the mistakes by Roberto Rosetti (offside Tevez) and Jorge Larrionda (goal Lampard) in the matches for a spot in the quarter finals at this World Cup in South Africa.

Full video of Kill the referee

The video is on YouTube. Make sure you put English subtitles on via menu in YouTube player.

The film is a unique documentary, because the football fans never got such a personal insight in the life of professional referees. Producer Jean Libon got access to the dressing room, the hotels and family meetings. His camera team was even able to film the family of the referees at home, who were shown as the greatest supporters of their husband, father or son.

Professional approach towards referees

“This openness from Uefa shows their professional approach towards referees”, says Jaap Uilenberg, former international referee and at this moment member of Uefa’s referee committee. “An interview wit a referee was not done a few years ago.” He stressed that the Dutch FA is more open since a few years ago when they get such requests.

In many European countries there is criticism about the invisible wall between referees and others. Because coaches, players and supporters get no insight into the refereeing business. For example England, where Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger openly criticised the FA. In that period of the release (2010) he wants more openness about the referee appointments.

What you see these days, in 2020 and further, is that referee departments are more open. PRO referees recently did live Q&A sessions on YouTube, which resulted in these tips by Alan Kelly. And there are many more examples, luckily.

Referees are normal human beings

Kill the referee is a start to present the referees with an open approach. “Inside the referee committee we’ve extensively discussed how to handle this”, mentioned Uilenberg. “This movie shows that the referee is also a top sportsman. And a normal human being.” The documentary shows that all referees, like each soccer team and all fans, look forward to reaching the final. “For young referees the movie can be a motivation to strive to such a goal.”

Howard Webb during Euro 2008. Shot from the movie Kill the referee

Uilenberg is also acting in Kill the referee. He’s guiding, mentoring and judging Howard Webb in the match between Austria and Poland. Because of awarding a penalty kick in the last minute against Poland he gets death threats. The then Polish president Lech Kascynski, makes it more worse after that. Because that man was very negative about the referee in the worldwide media.

NB: Uefa did not blame Webb for awarding a (wrong) penalty kick. But there was a different reason to sent him home. That was because of an offside goal which was not seen by Webb’s assistant.

The effect of a referee decision

Uilenberg was very clear back in 2010. “The only thing you can do against the behavior of such people is to take care of the safety of the referee and his family back home.” He shows his aversion of people who call themselves fans, but really aren’t by threatening referees. “The boundaries are shifted according to many years ago. But when the producer can show such reactions, the movie gives a good representation of the life of modern refereeing.”

This documentary illustrates perfectly how important such a big tournament is for some fans and players. A wrong call of the referee can have enormous effects. The movie gives the man in black a human character, who actually can make mistakes. Busacca shows that in a touching way in his reaction to protesting players. “We are no gods, we make mistakes.” When his match is finished he makes the cross sign, and looks up to heaven.

5 qualities World Cup referees should have

Cover of Fifa Weekly issue 1 with info about 5 qualities World Cup referees should have.

Cover of Fifa Weekly issue 1 with info about 5 qualities World Cup referees should have

The anticipation is building among referees about who will go to the World Cup, says Massimo Busacca, Fifa’s Head of Refereeing in the new magazine Fifa Weekly.

Fifa confirmed to Arbitro Internacional that the referee committee will have a meeting on 14th and 15th of January to select the WC referees.

But what qualities do these referees need to have according the international referee boss to become a candidate for the world cup in Brazil? This are 5 key factors to become a top referee – things every referee should work on – 5 qualities World Cup referees shoul have:

  1. Impeccable performances and the fullest concentration in the matches in the period before the World Cup.
  2. Consistency. Be able to make decisions based on uniform and consistent criteria.
  3. Fast decision-making. Be able to make correct calls in a split-second
  4. Understanding different footballing cultures and mentalities. That means: watching and re-watching videos and writing down the differences.
  5. Good positioning to see exactly what has taken place.

Read the full magazine below or open it in a new tab via this link.

Referees in the media (week 49 – 52)

Referees in the media will be published at the beginning of the week on the Dutch Referee Blog and provides remarkable or interesting quotes and links to articles worth reading.

Due to holidays and incident in Dutch football, I made a list with quotes from the last month. The Dutch Referee blog wishes you a very sportive 2013.

“Oh yes, of course I miss it. It’s like a player, when he finishes playing. I miss it a lot, but on the other hand, it’s good because you are still involved, still hungry and can explain better to the referees what they need to do.”

Massimo Busacca, former Swiss top referee and current Fifa referee boss, misses refereeing. Read full interview with Busacca on

“Age caught up with me, I think. But you don’t get tackled as a referee.”

Mick Massingham after he received the Richard Taylor Memorial Trophy. The award is presented to those who have made an outstanding contribution to refereeing. He had to stop playing football due to an injury, but could continue running with the whistle.


“My technical skills with the ball are unfortunately very limited. When I realized that, I said to myself: “Come, you will become a referee.” For me it was a great way to get to know football from a different angle.”

Referee Marcel Neuer, brother of Bayern Munich’ss goalie Manuel, talks about his career as referee. Full interview with Marcel Neuer in German on website of DFB, the German FA.

“It only took the Saints fans 20 minutes to welcome him back with derisory chants which perversely he will have loved hearing – normal service was resumed.”

Graham Poll about the first match of referee Mark Clattenburg after the Chelsea allegations of racism. Read the full review by Poll of the Premier League Referees.

“We had a great three weeks in Japan and although very tough, it is a further step in the selection of referees for the Women’s World Cup to be held in Canada 2015.”

Referee Sian Massey blogs about the World Cup earlier this year and her experiences with top level refereeing.

“Passion, commitment and going into games without prejudice against teams with players who got a migration background.”

That’s what Hans-Dieter Wichert wants to advice young referees to take with them on their path of their refereeing career. On the 21st of December the referee from Germany was 40 years on refereeing duty.

Referees in the media (week 52)

‘Referees in the media’ will be published at the beginning of the week on the Dutch Referee Blog and provides remarkable or interesting quotes and links to articles worth reading.

“He’s really looks better than the last time I’ve seen him.”

Says lawyer Sven Menke after visiting Babak Rafati, who’s recovering from an attempted suicide.

“Oh yes, of course I miss it. It’s like a player, when he finishes playing. I miss it a lot, but on the other hand, it’s good because you are still involved, still hungry and can explain better to the referees what they need to do.”

Massimo Busacca misses refereeing now he’s the head of Fifa’s refereeing department. Read full interview on

“I’m very happy. It’s a nice appreciation and a good motivation to continue what I’m doing.”

Serdar Gözübüyük after being promoted at the age of 26 to the Fifa list as youngest Dutch international referee ever.

“Now in #top2000: Uncertain Smile – The The. Routine preparation on matches I led as a referee. Worked as adrenaline pump.”

Former Dutch international referee tweets about a song he hears in a Dutch radio top list. Here’s the song:

Busacca new head of Fifa refereeing

Massimo Busacca has been appointed as new head of Fifa’s refereeing department. The Swiss referee, who will start at August 1st, has announced the end of his career as ‘men in black’ recently.

Fifa president Joseph Blatter is happy with his recruit: “As I have said on many occasions, I have made refereeing one of my main priorities. Massimo Busacca’s experience will prove to be particularly useful to our mission and to our efforts to continue the groundwork we have put in place with the confederations and member associations in this particularly important area.”

The question for many referees is: will this in the future bring much change into refereeing. According to German newspaper Der Tagesspiel, Busacca has said he is favouring a goal-line camera, something his fellow countryman Blatter never wanted to think about as a serious option for professional football.

UPDATE: Busacca has spoken about the use of video technology to SwissInfo: “I’m against it. We’ve talked about having fifth and sixth referees. I’m convinced that this is a good solution to better address the situation.”