"Baldassi always puts Argentina first"

Hector Baldassi is the most acclaimed referee in the Argentine soccer first division. His first official match refereed in the Argentine’s top soccer division was in 1998 and in less than 10 years he has managed to accomplish a great deal. During his career we can highlight that Baldassi was appointed by the COMMEBOL to officiate in the Copa America 2004 and the Libertadores Cup 2008. His last achievement as a professional was refereeing three matches in this last Olympic Games in China.

Hector Baldassi is the most acclaimed referee in the Argentine soccer first division. His first official match refereed in the Argentine’s top soccer division was in 1998 and in less than 10 years he has managed to accomplish a great deal.

During his career we can highlight that Baldassi was appointed by the COMMEBOL to officiate in the Copa America 2004 and the Libertadores Cup 2008. His last achievement as a professional was refereeing three matches in this last Olympic Games in China.

Hector Baldassi, also known as the Rabbit (el conejo), sat down to talk with Jorge Rowe from CSRN, and this is what he had to say about his latest experience in the Libertadores Cup ’08 final match and the Olympic Games in China.

Jorge Rowe (CSRN): Where were you when they announced that you were designated to be the referee of the final match of the Libertadores Cup?
Hector Baldassi (HB): I was at home watching TV with my kids. We all got pretty excited about it.

CSRN: How was the scenario of the Maracana Stadium that night of the final?
HB: It was something spectacular to watch, incredible! It really was something breathtaking in terms of the spectacle the crowd was giving.

CSRN: How would you compare the Brazilian “Torcida” (fans) to the Argentinean ones ?
HB: I think the Brazilian fans are euphoric; they share the same mythology that the Argentinean crowds in terms of shouting and singing. The way of living the game since they walk into the stadium until the minute they are leaving back home is pure – raw fanaticism.

CSRN: What team, besides La Liga the Quito, which caught the world’s attention, intrigued you the most?
HB: I don’t usually make a deep analysis team by team. I think that all the teams that qualified for the tournament are there for a reason. Every team besides their good performance and good game have to have a touch of luck and if you add up all these things together at the end you will see why and which teams reach the final game.

CSRN: Was this the best edition of the Libertadores Cup?
HB: I always say that the last one was better and the best one is the one to come. It’s really great that year after year we exceed ourselves, not just on the level of soccer played and the referees’ work but also in terms of the tournament organization. I am confident that every year we see better games and organization among the different soccer entities in South America.

CSRN: How do you see the Champions League compare to the Libertadores Cup, in terms of the soccer they show?
HB: (laughs); I would like to play that league to give you an accurate comparison. In terms of organization, the Champions League is better organized than the Libertadores. In terms of soccer, what I watch on TV is that both tournaments have a high quality soccer level.

Olympic Games in China:

CSRN: How did you feel as a professional when they announced that you would be one of the referees designated for the Olympic Games?
HB: Great emotion, great Joy! I felt proud of participating as a referee in such an important and historic competition. As a person who dedicates their life to this line of business and who works everyday thinking in these moments, once these offers/ opportunities cross your path, you live the moment with great satisfaction and happiness.

CSRN: Did you watch the Olympics Games while growing up as a child? Besides soccer, what disciplines are the ones you like the most?
HB: When I arrived to the Olympic Villa and my colleagues would ask me which disciplines I was more interested in watching I would tell them Men’s Track & Field and pole vault. In particular I am lucky to say that I witness the Men’s 100 meters race and the finals of women pole vault. Both disciplines had a new world record established and the Russian pole vault girl, Elena Isinbaeva fascinated me. I had always follow athleticism in general. Every time I know of different competitions around the world I try to watch them on my TV. I am passionate for SPORTS!!

CSRN: How many matches of this Olympics Games did you officiate? And which one of them was the most complicated to call?
HB: I was lucky to be designated for 3 games; Belgium vs. China – Japan vs. Holland and Italy vs. Belgium. I believe this last match that I mention to you was the most complicated. It wasn’t hard to control the game and the players, but what happened was they where difficult situations during the course of the game. We had 2 players sent off with red cards, 2 penalties, one last resource defending tackle and a goal that was for some people controversial even though I am convinced of my call. Due to the circumstances of the game and the characteristics of the match it was the toughest one. It was also tough to call China’s first match in which I had to send off 2 players of the host country. It is never easy but one is a professional and must follow his conviction while calling.

CSRN: If Argentina reached the final match of this Olympic Soccer tournament that meant by nature you would have been relegated from being the official in that game. Would you have traded Argentina playing to win the bronze instead of the gold medal for you to be able to call the last and decisive game for the Olympic Gold Medal? I ask you this as a professional more than an Argentinean soccer fan.
HB: NEVER!!!! I always said it. I went to this Olympic Games in China thinking of seeing Argentina at the highest level of the soccer podium. I really wanted to stay until the last day of the games to see the final match and the possibility of watching my fellow country men on that decisive game for the gold.
Watching your flag waving at the top of the pole, listening to your national anthem in such a marvelous scenery while the coronation of this new Argentine team is happening is something indescribable that I would never forget in my life. I am passionate about soccer and I always want to see my national team win. My goals as a professional were already covered by the fact of being designated and lucky enough to call 3 games.

CSRN: In general, you think the performance of the referees in this tournament was good?
HB: I don’t like to talk about the work of my colleagues in general. But I think we had a good performance overall.

CSRN: Now that the Olympics have come to an end. Do you have a South Africa 2010 World Cup dream? Do you see yourself refereeing there?
HB: I am always training and getting ready for the next step. Now we have the Argentine local championship in their beginning matches, we have the Nissan SudAmericana Cup and last but not least the World Cup Qualifiers. If they call me to go to the Next World Cup it would be great.

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