• FIFA elite refereeing seminar concludes in Abu Dhabi
  • Thirty-six of the world’s leading match officials took part in theory and practical sessions
  • Guided by Pierluigi Collina and Massimo Busacca

The sun disappears behind the Zayed Sports City Stadium and bathes the nearby Sheikh Zayed Mosque in golden light. As the day in Abu Dhabi slowly draws to a close, it also marks the end of the FIFA elite refereeing seminar that has taken place in the capital of the United Arab Emirates over the past five days.

In another milestone on the road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, 36 of the world’s best match officials travelled to this corner of the Middle East to take part in theory and practical sessions under the watchful eye of Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees’ Commission, and Massimo Busacca, Head of FIFA’s Refereeing Department.

During the course, the potential World Cup participants were confronted with match situations simulated by local players and received direct on-pitch feedback about their positioning and decision-making from instructors. The referees analysed video footage from past matches and discussed how to read the game from technical and tactical points of view. They were also schooled in how to work as and with Video Assistant Referees (VARs), with Collina once again emphasising that "the final decision always lies with the referee on the pitch, and that is still the case".

Referees from all six confederations travelled to Abu Dhabi to prepare for the World Cup in Russia. "We come from different countries, have different mentalities and different ways of understanding football," explained German match official Felix Brych, “but we had a lively exchange of ideas and developed a common philosophy."

The 33rd team at the World Cup
Just as each of the 32 national teams at the World Cup have one clear goal in mind, the referees also see themselves as a squad that must be able to rely on each other and act as a unit. "We need to be optimally prepared for the World Cup because the players definitely will be," said French match official Clement Turpin.

After the sun finally sets into the glittering sea and the 30-degree daytime temperatures give way to a cooler breeze, Massimo Busacca gathers his charges on the training pitch one last time at the end of the seminar. Expressing his satisfaction at how the course unfolded and reflecting on an intensive and successful week, he says: "We are striving for consistency and uniformity. This seminar has shown that although there is still room for improvement, we are on the right track."

Several of the referees will now remain in the United Arab Emirates to oversee matches at the FIFA Club World Cup 2017, while others will return to their homelands emboldened and with new insights to share.