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Referees fine tune teamwork

June 10, 2004 21:38 IST

If the week to week rewards of refereeing are abuse and aspersions cast about their parentage, the officials selected for Euro 2004 at least know they are appreciated by UEFA.

The 12 referees, 24 assistants and four additional fourth officials have been preparing for the tournament in luxurious surroundings and were put through their paces in public on Thursday for the benefit of the world's media.

Seemingly no expense has been spared on the men who will control the 31 matches.

Their fi
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ve star hotel, featuring two enticing swimming pools and extensive verdant lawns, is situated a stone's throw from Espinho's Atlantic Ocean beach, 15 miles south of Porto and almost the very western extremity of Europe.

Thursday's activities, however, did not include swimming or sunbathing as the officials took part in an intensive two-hour session.

After various sprint and running work they broke down into smaller groups for games of football, head tennis and even a version of handball.

Some of the referees showed a nice touch and would not have looked out of place on the training pitches of the 16 finalists but others were more reminiscent of the middle-aged father embarrassing his children with his cumbersome displays on a school sports day.

BULGING EYES

As ever, Italy's Pierluigi Collina was the centre of attention, his distinctive bald head glistening with sweat and his eyes bulging only slightly less than usual as he prepared for his last major tournament.

Sweden's style-conscious Anders Frisk was also highly visible with his trademark blond locks, permatan legs and shrunk-in-the-wash shorts.

In contrast, the nationality of England's representative Mike Riley's was easily betrayed by his grey socks -- everyone else wore white -- which contributed to his overall image of a balding maths teacher enjoying a day trip to the seaside.

When the action was finished, the officials came together for a mass rendition of high-fives, hand shakes and back slaps, though none was presumptuous enough to consider a celebratory shirt removal.

As it has been all season, "total shirt removal" during a goal celebration will be a yellow card offence during Euro 2004, although merely pulling the shirt over the head is deemed acceptable.

"Training is hard work but there is time for fun," said Collina, who will officiate Saturday's opening game between Portugal and Greece.

For all the light-heartedness, however, there is a serious side to the refereeing get-togethers as UEFA endeavours to prevent any of the misunderstandings and confusion over interpretations that have marred previous tournaments.

Each match will be controlled by a referee and two linesmen from the same country, further enhancing the "team" aspect of the three decision-makers.

TEAM PERFORMANCE

Riley will be assisted by fellow Englishmen Philip Sharp and Glenn Turner when he takes charge of the Sweden v Bulgaria game in Lisbon on June 14.

"We've worked together at home and abroad for around 15 games and in the same way as the teams do we aim to improve our team performance," Riley said.

"There's a tremendous sense of togetherness, there are no surprises between the three of us now and that can only help." added Turner.

The trio said they would love to officiate the final but said they would happily hand on the honour if they were ruled ineligible because England were involved.

"We are all football fans first, we were England fans long before we became referees," said Turner.

"We would dearly like England to do very well and if that means the three of us go home before the end of the tournament then I will happily watch the final on TV," he added.

Source:
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