CUIABA: A dancing chemist, a British bobby and doppelganger for a Hollywood star, a Swedish millionaire, and a hair salon owner are all playing a central role at this year’s World Cup.
These are just some of the varied off-pitch personas of the 25 referees attempting to keep things rolling smoothly as players from all corners of the globe collide in Brazil.
Chip away at the granite-like veneer of the man in the middle and there’s a treasure trove of weird and wonderful aspects of humanity waiting to be unearthed.
Take Noumandiez Doue for example.
He created history when he became the first referee from the Ivory Coast to take charge of a World Cup game, Chile’s second day 3-1 win over Australia.
As well as being one of Africa’s top officials the 43-year-old is a qualified chemist, “and I like to dance”.
Any hard-up players taking part in the United States’ victory over Ghana on Monday should have tapped up their ref, Jonas Eriksson.
The Swede is known as “the laid-back millionaire” after making a seven-figure fortune selling shares in a media rights business.
A Yorkshire policeman will be keeping law and order in Colombia’s second Group C run out against Ivory Coast on Thursday.
Howard Webb, handed the honour of refereeing the 2010 World Cup final, says his colleagues compare him to a Hollywood star.
“But unfortunately not a good looking one,” he admitted to fifa.com.
“They say I look like Shrek, which explains why I have a picture of him as a screensaver on my mobile.”
– Insurance man with whistle –
House burgled? Car pranged? Then Cuneyt Cakir’s your man — the Turkish referee practices as an insurance broker back in Istanbul, that is when he’s not turning the pages of a Stephen King chiller.
Any Belgians or Algerians of a religious nature in Tuesday’s clash in Belo Horizonte will have found a kindred spirit in their referee — Marco Rodriguez.
Away from football, the former PE teacher is at home behind the pulpit delivering sermons in his capacity as a Protestant preacher in a church outside Mexico City.