The Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) and the Italian refereeing community have entered a new chapter of their partnership. On November 18, the UAF’s executive committee has confirmed the appointment of former referee Nicola Rizzoli as the Head of referees.
Talks with the two-time IFFHS World’s Best Referee were initiated by UAF chairman Andrey Pavelko and the Head of referees committee, Luciano Luci. Back in 2017, the latter replaced legendary former referee Pierluigi Collina – who called time on his 7-year spell as the UAF’s Head of referees – and has been combining both duties ever since.
Rizzoli’s arrival means that Luci will now focus on his primary responsibilities at the federation. Furthermore, as per sport.ua, the UAF representatives view 50-year-old Rizzoli as Luci’s successor. A source close to the development claims that the same is likely to happen “in the next few years” when the 72-year-old will leave his post due to age.
In an official press release, Pavelko expressed hope that the duo of Luci and Rizzoli will manage to improve national football.
“I’m sure that the tandem of two highly qualified specialists as Luciano Luci and Nicola Rizzoli will give a powerful impetus for the further development of the Ukrainian refereeing system”.
The Italian enjoyed a successful 15-year career, during which he has been named Serie A Referee of the Year for seven consecutive years, gaining international recognition in the process. Among other things, Nicola took charge of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund as well as the 2014 FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.
In 2014 and 2015, Rizzoli was awarded the world’s best referee prize by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. In July 2017, Nicola hung up his whistle to be hired as Serie A’s head referee designator. In 2018, he became an inductee into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.
His arrival is expected to benefit Ukrainian football. Probably, we will see Rizzoli’s first successes at the new position next spring, but for now, it will take a high-class specialist some time to get the hang of things.