Referees come, referees go. It is only a normal procedure due to the age limit in professional football. One can discuss whether it is reasonable that you are - overnight - not able to referee international matches anymore. Anyway, this time, a really great referee who has probably joined the worldclass of referees for a couple of years, will leave the refereeing stage: Frank de Bleeckere.
Born in Oudenaarde (East Flanders), he is a skilled PR/Sales manager and started refereeing in 1984. It did not take him too long to arrive at the Belgian top leagues. In 1998, he made his FIFA bow and nobody could divine how outstanding his career would become:
FIFA World Cup:
2006 in Germany, assisted by Peter Hermans and Walter Vromans:
Matches: 4; Yellow Cards: 19 (4,8 p.m.); Red Cards: 0
- Group Stage: Argentina 2-1 Côte d'Ivoire (5 YCs)
- Group Stage: Japan 0-0 Croatia (5 YCs)
- Round of 16: England 1-0 Ecuador (6 YCs)
- Quarterfinals: Italy 3-0 Ukraine (3 YCs)
2010 in South Africa, assisted by Peter Hermans and Walter Vromans:
Matches: 3; Yellow Cards: 14 (4,7 p.m.); Red Cards: 1 (0,3 p.m.)
- Group Stage: Argentina 4-1 Korea Rep. (5 YCs)
- Group Stage: USA 1-0 Algeria (4 YCs, 1 RC)
- Round of 16: Paraguay 5-3 pso Japan (5 YCs)
FIFA U20 World Cup:
2009 in Egypt, assisted by Peter Hermans and Walter Vromans:
Matches: 4; Yellow Cards: 17 (4,3 p.m.); Red Cards: 2 (0,5 p.m.)
- Opener: Egypt 4-1 Trinidad & Tobago (4 YCs)
- Group Stage: Nigeria 0-2 Spain (7 YCs, 1 RC)
- Group Stage: Australia 1-3 Brazil (3 YCs)
- Final: Ghana 4-3 pso Brazil (3 YCs, 1 RC)
2008 in Austria/Switzerland, assisted by Peter Hermans and Alex Verstraeten:
Matches: 3; Yellow Cards: 13 (4,3 p.m.); Red Cards: 1 (0,3 p.m.)
- Group Stage: Croatia 2-1 Germany (6 YCs, 1 RC)
- Group Stage: Russia 2-0 Sweden (5 YCs)
- Semifinal: Russia 0-3 Spain (2 YCs)
UEFA Champions League:
Matches: 47; Yellow Cards: 166 (3,53 p.m.); Red Cards: 4 (0,09 p.m.)
most important matches:
- Semifinal, 2006: AC Milan 3-0 Manchester United
- Round of 16, 2009: Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid
- Quarterfinal, 2010: Bayern München 2-1 Manchester United
- Semifinal, 2010: FC Barcelona 1-0 Internazionale
- Semifinal, 2011: FC Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
mostly accompanied by: Roland van Nylen, Dirk Vanhoutte, Peter Hermans, Mark Simons, Walter Vromans & Alex Verstraeten
UEFA Europa League:
Matches: 13; Yellow Cards: 27 (2,08 p.m.); Red Cards: 2 (0,15 p.m.)
most important matches:
- semifinal, 2008: Fiorentina 2-4 pso Rangers
- semifinal, 2009: Hamburger SV 2-3 Werder Bremen
UEFA Super Cup Final:
2009: Barcelona 1-0 aet Shakhtar (6 YCs)
- FIFA World Cup 2006 qualifiers AFC zone:
Korea DPR 0-2 Japan (4 YCs, 1 RC); match was held on neutral ground (Bangkok), closed to the public)
- FIFA World Cup 2006 playoffs UEFA zone:
Turkey 4-2 Switzerland (8 YCs); match is known as "battle of Istanbul". This match can be seen as basis for Frank de Bleeckere's career. Actually, Luis Medina Cantalejo was appointed for this match, Turkey however rejected him after his perfomance in the UCL match between Schalke 04 - Fenerbahce (2-0, 4 YCs, 2 RCs, both to Fenerbahce) where he sent to Turkish players correctly off...
He was probably one of the last officials who did not only apply the rule book but also showed his personality in every match. Moreover, he was - apart from his good foul detection - able to read a match and to know how he must handle it. Without any doubt, FdB always paid more attention to the control than to his decisions, a paramount example for this statement was last season's semifinal when he was in charge of "el clásico". I doubt that there is or will be a comparable referee in the foreseeable future, even though some of "our" young talents are really promising, if I only think about young guys like Svein Moen, Felix Brych or Cuneyt Cakir.
Some people blame UEFA for not having given him a final in CL. They say UEFA has to be ashamed. Without any doubt, de Bleeckere showed outstanding perfomances in the most important matches. The best point of time to appoint him for a final would have been in the area of 2008 or 2009, however, honestly speaking, the last two seasons were perhaps not enough for a final as he showed too many crudities in his matches.
That however does not change the fact that he was a great man in the pitch, we have to be sad that he will leave the stage as referee in a few weeks. One thing is sure: he will not lose his great personality and I hope that UEFA is going to find a place for him in their comitee.
Frank de Bleeckere will not go alone, Peter Hermans, one of the greatest assistant referees of the last years has also to retire.
Frank, Peter: thanks and good luck !