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The Ref Book

| 12.06.2018

They may not get a lot of love from fans, but without the men in the middle, there would be no World Cup. In Coral’s Referee Book, we put the spotlight on those who will officiate this summer in Russia, looking at which of the 35 referees are the most experienced, the most card happy and most likely to give a penalty, all displayed in the first sticker-style referee card resource.*

Check out latest odds on the upcoming World Cup matches for red cards, penalties and more.

Meet the World cup referees

Much like players, referees from all over the world have been looking to perform at the highest level to be selected for this summer’s tournament in Russia. FIFA have managed to whittle down the list to 35 lucky officials who will take to the field in football’s biggest tournament.

Our Coral Ref Book statistics found:

A huge gulf in experience:

  • Felix Brych, Germany = Most Experienced – Refereed the most games (468)
  • John Pitti, Panama = Most inexperienced (part-time teacher) – Officiated at the least number of games (35)

Number of cards issued:

  • Wilmar Roldan, Colombia = Most card happy – Most Yellow Cards per game (5.4)  and the most likely to give a red card (once every 3 games)
  • Bakary Gassama, Gambia = Least likely to give a red card (one red card in 76 games)

England’s Penalty ‘Curse’:

  • Mehdi Abid Charef, Algeria – Most likely to give a penalty (one every 2 games)
  • Ricardo Montero, Costa Rica – Least likely to give a penalty (one every 10 games)

Who will crack under the pressure? Or can they handle the intense scrutiny that only a World Cup brings? Use Coral’s Referee Book below to get to know each of the World Cup Referee squad. Filter by red cards, yellow cards and penalties, and check out the refs officiating England’s matches, indicated with an England flag.

Click on the referee faces below and select the filters to reveal the key statistics



Video Assistant Referee (VAR) allows referees to make more accurate decisions by checking four sorts of incidents:

  • Direct red cards
  • Goals, inclusive of offences that occur in the build up
  • Mistaken identity (if the wrong player is shown a yellow or red card)
  • Penalties given, inclusive of offences that occur in the build up

This year will be the first time VAR is used in a World Cup. A video assistant referee team will be located in a central video operation room in Moscow during all 64 matches to support the referees in their decision making. Check out our video to find out more about how it all works.

Referee Trivia

Dissent in football is rife. Whether it is in the stands, on the sidelines or on the pitch, everyone always finds innovative and often abusive ways to criticise the referee. The world’s governing body have been looking to clamp down on this and that’s why the first ever green cards were shown in the CONFIFA tournament on 2nd June.

It was brandished by Raymond Mashamba in the Pandavia and Tuvalu match in a tournament created for small countries that aren’t FIFA accredited. It’s perhaps too early to say whether it will catch on and act as a serious deterrent for players and coaching staff to abuse a referee. However, should it prove effective, then referees officiating in the World Cup could be brandishing it alongside their yellow and red cards. With goal-line technology and now VAR proving to be a popular inclusion in top flight football, it might not be long until the green card is the next addition to ways of helping a referee gain control of a football match.

Here’s the full list of 35 referees and Coral’s top facts and trivia you should know:

Referees Facts
Alireza Faghani Refereed the 2016 Men’s Olympic final, the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final, the 2015 Club World Cup final and the 2014 AFC Champions League final. Played in the third tier of Iranian professional football before deciding to become a ref. In the 2017 Confed Cup semi-final, he denied Chile a penalty, ignoring VAR.
Ravshan Irmatov Named as Best Referee in Asia for 4 consecutive years and the Globe Soccer ref of the year in 2015. The teacher from Tashkent also became the youngest official to referee a match at the WC in 76 years in 2010 – refereeing England’s 0-0 draw with Algeria.
Mohammed Abdulla
Hassan Mohamed
A big step up for the Emirati, reffing in his first World Cup. Dished out 273 yellow cards across 68 appearances, predominantly in Asia.
Ryuji Sato Sato has been a referee for over a decade and began his career in the lower leagues in Japan, where he’s now a regular in J1. 41 years old and this will be his first world cup.
Nawaf Shukralla Gave England’s Young Lions a penalty in their win over Mexico in the U17 World Cup and has taken charge of five qualifiers for Russia. Handed out 7 yellows in 2 matches at 2014 World Cup.
Mehdi Abid Charef The Algerian has plenty of international experience but this is his first World Cup. One of the most lenient refs according to the stats, Charef averages just 2.87 cards a game.
Malang Diedhiou Not a man to be messed with, the Senegalese customs inspector currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Nevertheless, he’s the most lenient referee going to this year’s WC, averaging just over 2 cards per game.
Bakary Gassama With VAR in use in Russia, Gassama has prior knowledge of the system after its trial in the Confederations Cup last year. He is also the first non-Asian referee to ever officiate in the Qatari league.
Ghead Grisha Currently in his 10th year as a Fifa-listed ref, Grisha is one of the most seasoned referees at the World Cup. Born on 29th February, so although he’s 42, he’s technically actually only 10 years old.
Janny Sikazwe Janny Sikazwe is famously regarded as Zambia’s best referee. Refereed the Club World Cup final in 2017 – should have sent off Sergio Ramos, reaching for his card before changing his mind.
Bamlak Tessema Weyesa Nominated for referee of the year at the CAF awards this year. Away from football, he is a medical researcher, clinical coordinator and graduated from Addis Ababa University with a degree in sociology.
Joel Aguilar A FIFA-listed referee since 2001, this is his third World Cup. He’s known for handing out cards, giving out 23 cautions in his six qualifying games for Russia.
Mark Geiger The first ever American to referee a World Cup knockout match (France v Nigeria in 2014) and has experience of VAR from last year’s Confederations Cup. Was a secondary school maths teacher for 17 years and won a presidential award for teaching in maths and science.
Jair Marrufo Awarded Referee of the Year in 2008 and put onto the FIFA list for international competitions – but was subsequently suspended following a run of poor performances. The American was accused of insulting Ivan Rakitic three times in a Barcelona v Real Madrid friendly in 2017
Ricardo Montero At 32 years of age, Costa Rican Montero is the youngest ref at the World Cup, although he has plenty of experience. He received his Fifa listed status in 2012 and was a regular in the CONCACAF Champions League, alongside officiating the under-17 World Cup playoff between Brazil and Mali and more recently four World Cup qualifiers for Russia.
John Pitti The least experienced referee in Russia, the Panamanian has only officiated 35 professional matches in his career.
César Arturo Ramos Was in the middle for the 2017 Club World Cup Final between Real Madrid and Gremio, whilst he was also named CONCACAF Referee of the Year. Has plenty of experience of VAR, having refereed at both Club World Cup & U20 World Cup level.
Julio Bascuñán Clearly happy taking centre stage, the card happy Chilean once led a protest of passengers against a flight delay. Has dished out on average over 5 yellows per game in his career of over 200 games.
Enrique Cáceres Born in 1974, Caceres initially did refereeing as a hobby and didn’t come into Paraguay Primera Division until 2009. The Paraguayan will likely be flashing his cards in Russia after dishing out 33 in six World Cup qualifying games over the past 18 months. Also with VAR experience having refereed in the Club World Cup and U20 World Cup.
Andrés Cunha Cunha has been a Fifa-listed referee since 2013. He entered the Uruguayan Primera three years earlier and established a reputation as a disciplinarian. Took charge of 3 games using VAR at the U20 World Cup.
Néstor Pitana A vastly experienced referee from Argentina, Pitana is a former actor turned P.E teacher. Has his own Twitter account with over 21K followers – his bio reads “Missionary, FIFA & Argentine Soccer referee. Ex-actor and ex-basketball player. Great chef.”
Sandro Ricci During France v Honduras in 2014, he was the first referee in the world to validate a goal by the means of the newly introduced goal line technology.
Wilmar Roldán Confident and outspoken even at a young age, he earnt the nickname ‘The Castrilli’ for his likeness to famous Argentine whistler Javier Castrilli. Lived up to his nickname when refereeing in the Copa Libertadores this year – handing out 6 yellows and 1 straight red card in a match between Jorge Wilstermann and Vasco de Gama.
Matthew Conger School teacher back home in New Zealand, with over 20 years of experience. Born in Texas, used to play in New Zealand, has plenty of tournament experience at the Olympics & U17 tournaments but this will be his first World Cup.
Norbert Hauata From Tahiti, this French speaker has been an international FIFA referee since 2008. Along with New Zealand’s Matthew Conger he is the only other official selected from the Oceania region.
Felix Brych Reffing in the Bundesliga from the age of 28, the 42 year old German is a qualified lawyer, and with 626 career matches under his belt to date, the most experienced referee at the World Cup.
Cüneyt Çakir The vastly experienced Turk is one of the most recognisable referees in Europe. Refereed at Euro 2012, the 2014 World Cup, and the 2015 Champions League final. Controversially sent off Nani for Man United v Real Madrid in 2013.
Sergey Karasev The only Russian referee to be selected for the World Cup and something of a disciplinarian, Karasev has dished out four or more cards in each of his last five international games.
Björn Kuipers The Dutchman became the first referee to officiate a European final in his home country for 22 years when he officiated the 2013 Europa League final in Amsterdam. Famously sent off Zlatan Ibrahimovic for PSG in the 2015 Champions League, after being surrounded by nine Chelsea players.
Szymon Marciniak Decided to be a referee after getting sent off during his own playing career. Has done very well since, reffing 3 matches at Euro 2016, and five Champions League matches in 2017/18, including Spurs 2-1 loss at home to Juventus.
Antonio Mateu Lahoz Another one who’s rather too fond of the attention, the Spanish ref incensed Man City fans in this year’s Champions League quarter-final v Liverpool, disallowing a legitimate goal and sending Pep Guardiola to the stands.
Milorad Mažić The 45-year-old Serbian is the oldest referee in Russia. Took charge of the 2018 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool, controversially sparing Sergio Ramos any punishment for his attacks on Mo Salah & Loris Karius.
Gianluca Rocchi A member of FIFA’s elite group of referees, Rocchi began his career way back in 2000 at the age of 26. A public supporter of VAR, saying it makes officials lives easier.
Damir Skomina Plenty of top level experience but the Slovenian is not a man England will want to be reminded off, the Slovenian officiating during the Three Lions’ elimination by Iceland at Euro 2016. Averages more than 4 cautions per game.
Clément Turpin The only French whistler at the World Cup, the man from Lyon is regarded as one of the best up and coming referees, and already has big match experience from Euro 2016. `Has a number of Twitter parody accounts created in his honour. Studies the theory of law.

*Data sourced from



Richard Marsh