Ever since Italian referee Pierluigi Collina hung up his yellow cards back in 2005, world football has lacked a charismatic top class referee who everyone could point to as be the best in the profession. However a new star in black is emerging from the Belgium Jupiler League, with Jerome Efong Nzolo looking to seize that mantle.
Born in Gabon, Jerome Efong Nzolo moved to Belgium in 1995 to study electro mechanics, where he met a girl and never left. Nzolo was himself a budding forward in his youth, however a broken leg forced him out of the game, with Nzolo opting to extend his love-affair with football by securing his refereeing qualifications in Africa.
Once in Belgium, Nzolo continued to press on with his career as a referee, and in 2005 he was awarded with his FIFA badge allowing him to take control of top flight domestic football. And it has been an upward spiral ever since, with Nzolo picking up the referee of the year award in 2007 and growing his reputation as one of the best referees on the planet.
Nzolo shares similar attributes to Collina. Physically the resemblance is striking as Nzolo glides across the pitch with his bald head shining under the lights. But more than just being a slaphead, Nzolo radiates a healthy lifestyle, with an excellent physique and strong lungs that allows him to always to keep on top of the play.
But it is also his mannerisms which separates Nzolo from the crowd. He demands respect from all those around him, whether players or managers, adopting a hands-on approach to all officiating on the pitch. Due to his prime condition Nzolo is constantly found in the right place, speaking quickly and directly to those who need calming down but doing so with a smile on his face that commands obedience instead of antagonism.
Nzolo is laying down the standard for today’s modern professional referees.
On Sunday Nzolo was again chosen to referee the big game of the week in Belgium, Club Brugge versus Standard Liege, and highlights his performance can be seen here.