It was almost exactly 10 years ago when a Belgian referee was allowed to whistle for a Champions League match. “I led my last game for Arsenal and Dortmund in November 2011,” Frank de Bleeckerey said today.
“This is a very good moment for Lawrence, but also for the Belgian referee in general.”
But why did it take so long? “It’s hard to give a single answer to that. Just as with footballers, there are generations among the referees. When I whistled, the Red Devils weren’t present at the European Championship or the World Cup.”
Visser gets the Real Madrid-Sharif match, because he is in the first group of referees in UEFA. “He could go a step higher, to the elite group with the top 25 teams in Europe,” says De Bleeckere.
“I really felt it could be for Lawrence this season. He’s on the UEFA talent programme, which means he’s being closely followed and he’s also getting a mentor.”
“By the way, he is one of the 7 international referees for Belgium. In the second group we have Lardot, Lambrechts and Pocot, while in the third group there are Laforge, van Dreisch and Verbomene. These are all fairly young referees, so the succession is good. They all have to advance in this tap arrangement. And it happens step by step. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Lawrence Visser already has a lot of experience in the Jupiler Pro League and also in the European League and other (smaller) international tournaments. Is the difference with the Champions League still big?
“The experience is completely different. The interest and pressure is huge. You also end up with the best teams in Europe, in much bigger stadiums. In Belgium, a maximum of 30,000 fans whistle, now for example 80,000 or 90,000 fans… that requires some adjustment” .
“I asked Lawrence to keep his focus, but also to enjoy it. When you enjoy it, you have confidence and you can radiate that to the players.”
If Visser, only 31, continues to grow, he could also replace De Bleeckere as Belgian at a major tournament. “The most important thing is that he has successfully completed all the matches for which he is now allowed to whistle. He has to confirm every match, because he gets points after every match. Based on these reports, he can whistle for the other matches. But this is also for him to do. Step by Step. “
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