Pietro Galligani – The ‘Fuoriclasse’ of Italian Umpiring

World League Round 2 San Diego 2015

Who is Pietro Galligani?

My name’s Pietro Galligani, I’m 24 and in my life I’m a cook. I love sport in general and when I was a kid I chose field hockey. I never left it during all this years. I’ve got a younger sister who plays hockey too so I can share with her my passion for this amazing sport.

Can you tell us about your career in hockey?

I began playing hockey very young, I was only a kid when I grabbed for the first time a hockey stick: since that moment I understood I was undertaking the right way. I was born and I live in Pisa where I started playing hockey and where I’m currently involved  with the club of my city, CUS Pisa Hockey: we’re a big family and with my teammates (and friends in life) I shared a plenty of unforgettable moments, including many junior and youth cups. Meanwhile I started umpiring, I can’t remember precisely when but I was not older than 16. We almost all still playing in the same team and we are the core of the senior team which got promoted to the first league this year.

 Why did you decide to become an umpire?

When I was about 15, my former coach Francesco Miccoli asked to us as “bigger” guys to manage the umpiring of the U14 regional championship who usually took place in Pisa. Most of them were not really interested in that, so it ended that I’ve blown the most of the matches and my ex-trainer was happy with my job, giving me tips on how to learn umpiring and at the same time teaching to the kids how to interface with the rules and with the umpire. I really enjoyed the experience, so I decided to keep it on.

What is your best moment in your umpiring career?

I’m having an amazing experience as umpire: I participated to the UDP, I’ve been appointed to top tournaments in Europe, I have known a lot of people… So it’s really difficult to find a best moment. I can say that my higher moment so far was last Easter in Amsterdam when I had the privilege to blow the AH&BC Amsterdam game during EHL KO16 with an experienced umpire as Tim Pullman: it was the home team match in the historical Wagener Stadion which was full of people. I felt something I never felt before, the pulsating heart of hockey was beating all around me and I was right in the middle of that!

Is there any decision you regret?

Absolutely not. I sacrificed many things in favor of umpiring, sometimes even my job, but I think that if I reached a certain level of skills in umpiring I can’t say to have made the wrong choices.

How is hockey in Italy?

Sore point… Field hockey is not many known in Italy, the most part of the kids who want to practice sport choose soccer since when they’re really young. The level of the championships is decreasing every year hand in hand with the number of players and umpires. Currently I can’t see a future for hockey in Italy and that’s hard to say, but I’m involved in Italian hockey since many years and unluckily I couldn’t notice any massive change during this period. I really hope to be wrong but I don’t like the sensation I feel when I watch at the situation of the hockey panorama in my country. That’s also a reason why I’m making many efforts to establish myself in international hockey world.

Who is the best umpire in the world?

For the first time ever this year FIH decided to give an award to the best umpire in the world, voted by all the FIH umpires around the globe. Nathan Stagno won it and I think is fair enough because his style is inimitable and it works. By the way is not my favorite style of umpiring although I’m supposed to be “latin”, I always looked at Christian Blasch as a mentor, not only because he’s taller than me but because he’s a master in managing every situations with an enviable calm, don’t allowing the players to go over him. I really liked also Andy Mair style and another umpire I get inspiration from is Marcin Grochal from Poland: he comes from a small hockey nation as me, he was an UDP as me, he’s very young as me and he’s having brilliant career.

EHL KO16 Amsterdam 2016

What are the qualities required at top level?

First thing you have to know and to understand really well the regulation. Then a top level umpire should recognize the different situations that occur during a game, so he has to be emphatic, he has to have good communication skills, he has to have a positive body language and he has to feel what the players feel. To be clearer, a top level umpire is not the person who can see every single foul from the first to the last minute of a match, but he’s the person who knows exactly what’s happened before, what’s going at the moment and what to expect later.  Of course an umpire is ready to expect the unexpected, but usually he can easily predict what will follow.

 What are your advises for young umpires?

In our sport is frequent to find umpires who are still playing (as me or Laurine Delforge for example) so they have to manage the double role. One suggestion I can give to a guy who wants to enter the umpiring world is to don’t take a decision immediately: player and umpire roles can coexist, in fact being a player can help to take some decisions as umpire and at the same time being an umpire can help a player to behave and to cooperate with his “colleague” who is on the other side while he’s playing.

Another fundamental thing to do to become a top umpire is to listen to the more experienced umpires. Whoever you’ll talk with, he will give you notions you can’t find in any videos or slides, so when you go out for a tournament or simply for a championship match, ask your colleague many things as possible and listen what he has to tell you. I can still remember a lesson which Paco Vazquez held in Rotterdam about the  mental preparation of an umpire. Also watching other umpires job it’s useful to catch some shades otherwise you couldn’t see.

First UDP meeting

Any rule you would like to change?

FIH is doing a great job in this years to make hockey games more spectacular and less dangerous. This was possible changing some rules or introducing new ones, accelerating the speed of the game and making umpire’s life easier. I’m really happy to blow (and play) with these rules, because gives me the chance to keep the concentration on the management of the game, don’t being worried to think about a thousand of rules!

 I would like to say thank you to some people who have been (and some of them are still) very important in my umpiring route, beginning from Domenico Ferlito who was my really first umpiring teacher: he was the national umpire manager when I met him and he taught me every single rule of the rulebook. He appointed me to my first national matches and he cared about me for many years. Nowadays is not involved anymore in the national association but I’m still in touch with him, who wants to be updated on my appointments! Other two fundamental persons for my route are my UDP mentors, Carol Metchette and Michiel Bruning. They made an absolute fantastic job with Group 7 (I would like to thank also my UDP mates for the fantastic 3 years we spent together around Europe!) and if I’m involved at this level of international level I owe it in a big part to them. Obviously I got many teachings from the big amount of Umpire Managers and officials I met during these years too (I think to Tom Goode, Juan Manuel Requena, Henrik Ehlers, Xavi Adell, Ged Curran, Ray O’Connor, Cees Sluyk, Peter de Leeuw, Rogier Warris…). There’s a last person I would like to thank in particular who is Coen van Bunge, we’re good friends as well as colleagues and he helped me with suggestions, tips, corrections and encouragement words from the very beginning of my career.

Thanks to Self-Pass for the interview that gave me the opportunity to share my point of view about umpiring.

Pietro Galligani


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