Massimo Busacca has been training hard both mentally and physically to blow the whistle in the forthcoming World Cup football championships in Germany.
Busacca, who hails from canton Ticino in southern Switzerland, tells swissinfo he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and is well aware of the responsibility he will shoulder during the tournament.
He is one of 23 referees from 21 countries appointed by world football governing body Fifa in Zurich to officiate during the finals, which start on June 9.
Busacca, aged 37, is proud to be representing Switzerland in a profession that he says has become more important than ever before and which deserves more credit.
swissinfo: How have you been preparing for the tournament?
Massimo Busacca: I had to put in a lot of hard work to be selected. I shall therefore go on as I have been doing, without upsetting my training routine, or my mental and physical preparation.
The World Cup is obviously a prestigious event, so clearly I shall have to pay attention to the smallest of details... to be on top form for this competition.
swissinfo: What does the competition mean to you? Aren't you afraid of the pressure?
M.B.: I would be less than honest if I said I was not excited. I am obviously proud to be taking part in the world championship. The excitement is therefore quite natural, but I know from experience that it must be controlled. If you go onto the field in a state of emotional excitement, you are likely to make errors.
For me, it is important to remain calm and clear-headed, though I know that when I walk on the pitch to referee my first match my heart will be beating faster.
swissinfo: What does it feel like being the only Swiss referee?
M.B.: I am really pleased, especially since these championships will feature not only a Swiss referee, but also our national team. That means that Swiss football has something to say and something to give, and also that it is also highly regarded internationally, in terms of both playing the game and refereeing.
swissinfo: What do you think of the new Swiss anti-hooligan legislation, against which a group of fans is organising a referendum?
M.B.: Football obviously needs fans, whether they are ardent supporters, young people or families... but violence in all its forms and expressions has absolutely no place in a football stadium.
swissinfo: Just how difficult is the referee's job?
M.B.: Ours is a thankless task, because everyone expects the referee's performance to be faultless. No one wants their team to lose - players, managers or fans... But since we are human, we sometimes make mistakes. The pressures can be very heavy, but I think that a well-prepared referee is well aware of the challenges he will face on the pitch.
swissinfo: Do you have any golden rules?
M.B.: [You need] nerves of steel and a cool head. Above all, a referee needs to have a clear understanding of the game and know the rules in full. He must also have a strong personality and be able to exercise self-control, especially when provoked.
A good referee also needs to be able to establish a good relationship and communicate well with the players, so that what he does is understood and accepted. If you go on the field with an arrogant, dictatorial attitude, it is very difficult to be accepted and win respect.
He also has to be able to own up to his mistakes. And he has to referee every match as if it were the most important in the world.
swissinfo: Apart from your whistle, do you have other ways of exerting your authority?
M.B.: Body language is very important, especially when you cannot communicate in a foreign language. A glance from the referee should be enough to make a player understand that he is breaking the rules. And sometimes everything can depend on the way you look at a player.
swissinfo: How would you assess the level of refereeing in Switzerland?
M.B.: I would say that the level is good, and always has been. So long as there is a Swiss representative in international tournaments, it means that we are doing well and that our committee is giving us the right guidance for refereeing at the highest levels.
Refereeing is now more important than ever before, and therefore it deserves greater consideration. Players are given all they need to achieve their objectives. But during the week, we have few facilities. We have to work out for ourselves how and how much we should train, and to what extent we need to sacrifice our regular working lives.
swissinfo: Beyond the game itself, how do you interpret all the excitement surrounding this world championship?
M.B.: The World Cup is a unique event, even though it depends on a huge and well-oiled organisational machine... At times like this football mania or football fever simply reflects people's interest in the competition.
My participation in this championship has aroused a different kind of curiosity. People stop me and ask all kinds of questions, and I am happy to be able to highlight the role of the referee... our task is a vital one.
swissinfo-interview, Françoise Gehring
Massimo Busacca is set to referee the game between Spain and Ukraine on June 14 in Leipzig.
Busacca is 37 years old and was born in Bellinzona in southern Switzerland.
He has been a top league referee in Switzerland since 1996.
He has been an international referee since 1999.
The World Cup 2006 in Germany kicks off officially on June 9, with Switzerland among the 32 national teams taking part.
Apart from the selection of Massimo Busacca as a referee Fifa has appointed two other Swiss - Francesco Buragina (40) and Matthias Arnet (38) as assistants.
During the World Cup in Germany, referees and their assistants each earn $40,000 (SFr48,300) plus a daily allowance of $100.
A retailer by trade, Busacca's hobbies include cooking and travel. He speaks a number of languages.
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