Referees Top 10 - 2006
Number 1: Frank de Bleeckere
A third generation referee, Belgian Frank de Bleeckere started as a football player, but too often injured he decided to change his career. Belgian's World Cup record holder with 7 matches had to retire at the end of 2011 because of the age limit.
Number 2: Benito Archundia
Born in 1966, Benito Armando Archundia Tellez became an international referee in 1993 and retired at the end of 2010.
Number 3: Horacio Elizondo
Physical education teacher Horacio Elizondo started his career as a referee in a handball match as a student. It was just for fun, but he realized he liked it so much that he signed up for a training course.
Number 4: Jorge Larrionda
This referee, full name Jorge Luis Larrionda Pietrafiesa, was born 9 March 1968. Jorge was a football player himself, as striker he made it into the sixth division. As referee he made his debut in the first division in 1993 and was an international referee since 1998. He was seen by many as the very best referee in South America.
Larrionda retired at the end of 2011.
Number 5: Roberto Rosetti
Roberto Rosetti was widely believed to be one of the world's best referees of his time. He was known as a strict man - the regulations were his bible - but also as a good communicator. He talked a lot to the players and had no problem getting his points across.
Number 6: Shamsul Maidin
Considering the size of his native country it's a bit of a miracle Shamsul Maidin was one of the 32 referees chosen for the 2006 World Cup, where he officiated three matches in the first round. And he wasn't even the first Singapore ref to officiate at the World Cup, that was George Suppiah.
Number 7: Lubos Michel'
Born in the then Republic of Czecho-Slovakia in 1968, Lubos Michel had an impressive career as a referee and he was considered one of the world's best. He was only 25 when he became a FIFA referee.
Number 8: Markus Merk
Markus Merk, born March 15, 1962 in Kaiserslautern, Germany, has been a referee for over 21 years. He was born very near the stadium at Kaiserslauern, the Fritz-Walter Stadium, which he still describes as 'a very emotional place'. He was 12 when he first started going to games and was immediately 'impressed by the way the referees and their assistants worked'.
Number 9: Massimo Busacca
Born in the town of Belinzona in 1969 Massimo Busacca, who used to play football in a lower division in Ticino, started his career as a referee in 1990 and made it to the first division in 1996 . He got his FIFA badge in 1999 and was an Elite Category referee until June 2011 when he decided to retire after having seen it all and having been offered a good job.
Number 10: Stefano Farina
Ovada born Farina officiated his first official match in 1979. He was 18 years old at the time.
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Bummer! Just outside our top 10: Ivan Bebek
Ivan Bebek became a referee in the first league when his father was chief of the referees commission. At that time he was only 23.
Bebek was a Premier category referee which meant he had a chance to move up to become an Elite ref, but halfway 2011 he was put back in the first category.