Date: 22nd February 2011 at 3:36pm
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Our referee tonight is called Björn Kuipers. With a name like that, we could be worried that UEFA have gifted us another Scandinavian, but actually Björn is Dutch. What do we know about the man in black?

Dutchman Björn Kuipers was born in Oldenzaal, 38 years ago. By day, mild-mannered Kuipers is a supermarket owner. But by night, Björn puts on a special costume and dons his secret identity of referee. He has been an international referee for the past 5 years. Not surprisingly, when he`s not stacking the shelves with cat food and tooting on his whistle, he doesn`t have much time for anything else: he has no listed hobbies. Neither can he speak any other language than Dutch, which could be problematic for Chelsea: other than Salomon Kalou and Alex (who is injured anyway), none of our squad will be able to converse with him. Just as well, none of them will know how to call Kuipers a klotsak or a smeerlop at the right moment.

Kuipers has refereeing in the blood: his father was a referee, and his wife`s grandfather was also a whistleblower. Bjorn`s supermarket one won the prestigious shop-of-the-year contest in Oldenzaal, and actually he owns two supermarkets and a hairdressers. Clearly he knows his day trade, but what about his career as a referee? He earned his FIFA badge at the age of 33, and at 36 he was busy sewing his ‘elite category` ref onto his shorts. He`s been given a certain number of prestigious events: he took charge of the final of the 2006 u17 European Championships, which is a good sign for a ref when that happens in his first year. In 2009, already an elite ref, he got the final of the European u21 tournament. Last year he was selected for the 2010 Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

In European club competitions, he started the UEFA cup in 2006 and made the Champions League qualifying stages by 2007. By last season, he was making the group stages and one knockout round. That included our visit to the Calderon, when we drew 2-2 against Atlético. No reds and no penalties were given during that game. This season we also already met Björn, when, in our opening game at Zilina, a match that similarly saw no reds or penalties. Last season he also oversaw English clubs delivering two 4-1 hammerings: Fulham – Juventus, and Liverpool – Benfica. In the former he expelled two Juventus players and gave Fulham a penalty. Is that a bias towards West London sides?

In 39 international matches that Björn has overseen, he`s given 7 penalties and 5 red cards, which is a rather parsimonious total. His yellow card count is for an average of 1,54 for the home side and 1,87 for the away team. This is also quite economic. Kuipers is not a card-happy referee. We hope that that reflects his style of refereeing, rather than a strict application of the UEFA (and FA) norms that no penalty shall be given in Chelsea`s favour.

Amusingly, I found out that, in a secret report by the Dutch referee commission, Bjorn Kuipers was called good but arrogant. Kuipers thinks too much of himself, according to the referee bosses. For the record, the report said “hij loopt naast zijn schoenen”, which translates as “he walks besides his shoes”. Bjorn Kuipers thinks that if his father was still active as a referee he would have sent more than half of all players off before the match would have come to an end. Kuipers is strongly opposed to the increasing ‘crudeness` on and around the pitch. With Danish football very far from sophisticated, we hope that he will be helpful for Chelsea. Danish fans can also be ‘boisterous`, so with a bit of luck, this could horrify Kuipers into sympathy for Chelsea. As long as our travelling fans behave themselves, of course.

All indications are that Kuipers is a safe whistle for UEFA. Then again, we probably thought the same before Tom ‘Jordi` Henning Øvrebø was unleashed against us some 20 months ago.

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