Kari had been a FIFA referee for 13 years when he retired at the end of 2011. Almost all his international matches have the word qualifier in them.
At the time of the 2006 World Cup - which also had UEFA Category 2 referee Kari glued to his seat - Petteri said he was OK with the new referee guidelines that were a point of discussion in those days, most notably stopping play for shirt pulling and the straight red for a tackle from behind. He said the guidelines had led to less controversy than is usually the case in tournaments at this level and that they weren't too radical. He thought the straight red in the Italy - USA match (we also reported on at the time) was a bit overdone maybe, but justified, incidentally criticizing then WordReferee's number 1 man, Jorge Larrionda.
At the time of the 2006 World Cup Kari had refereed over 120 league matches and about 40 international matches. He started his refereeing career at the beginning of the 90's. Petteri took up refereeing when he realised that, as a football player, he was never going to make it to the premier league. It seems to have been a good decision: The man from Raisio made his way up the referee's hierarchy quickly and has worked as an international referee since 1999.
- A referee's job is exceedingly difficult, Kari says, you have to make split-second decisions, that can decide a match. It feels good however if a match is over and the players applaud you for a match that went well.
- It's important to be just and consistent. You also have to take each player's character into account and treat him slightly differently on that basis. You have players, like Mypass's Tuomas Haapala, that ramble all the time and to whom the referee can talk regardless. Then you have those who get angry immediately when a referee addresses them
On international refereeing
Kari had this to say about his international assignments:
- Above all there are differences in the tempo of play. Abroad they are passing the ball around much faster, so you have to deal with that in an other way. You can't just run from one end of the field to the other like we do in Finland.
He was treated well abroad, he feels. Especially in those countries, where the football traditions are long-standing and part of the national culture.
- For instance in Great Britain or in Germany, referees are treated extremely well. On the other hand somewhere in Kazakhstan the reception was very friendly as well, but the setting as cheerless as can be.
His most memorable match was the farewell match for legendary Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. When 30000 men were cheering the Dane in this goodbye match, cold shivers also ran down the referee's spine.
- There you saw how a top player's life can be at its best, Kari summarises.
- There have always been objectives and some of those have been reached, but one dream would be of course to referee in a World Championship. And a dream it should stay. It' is very hard to get there. There are quotas for each part of the world, and Europe's small countries stay outside of those. One can't really see a Fin get there in the near future.
The other Kari
Off the pitch, Petteri Kari has a time-sharing job as an academy officer in Parola, training soldiers. He feels his job hasn't hindered his refereeing. In fact Petteri believes that both have been mutually reinforcing.
- After all, on the pitch as well as in the army, I discipline young men.
This short bio/ interview is a rewrite of an article by Finnish journalist Tomi Kangasniemi for the Rannikkoseudun Sanomat. We would like to thank him for his friendly assistance in this matter.