From the county on the Bernabeu and Camp Nou »The story of the Romanian settled in Spain who ended up refereeing Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Article by Marcel Cristea – Published Monday, June 27, 2022, 10:30 / Updated Monday, June 27, 2022 12:13 PM

Cristian Lixandru, 42 years old, former player at Jiul, entered the refereeing in the 4th league, then left for Spain. And, in almost two decades on Iberian soil, he ended up leading Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta in LaLiga.

Even if in recent years the Romanian players have only had sporadic appearances in LaLiga, our football has been represented until recently at the highest level in the Iberian championship. Cristian Lixandru is the only foreign referee present in the first leagues of Spanish football.

Vacation transformed into life

The son of former referee Nicu Lixandru made his debut as a player in our first division at the age of 24, in Jiul, and, after short adventures at Astra or Juventus Bucharest, he moved to Spain. Although he left with the thought of being a football player, Lixandru would lead the big LaLiga teams on the field.

I had already started arbitrating in the country. I had done it in the 4th league, in Hunedoara, Timiș, Prahova and Teleorman. My father was also a player and referee, in Division B, and I followed his career somewhat “. The young man from Petroșani went on holiday to Spain and ended up refereeing the Bernabeu and Camp Nou. It was the first time in the Iberian Peninsula.

“My girlfriend, my current wife, came here for a wedding and she liked it. I also arrived in 2003 and decided to settle here. At first, I thought I might be a player. But I was non-EU, I could only play in the lower leagues. I played for a few years in the “preferences” (6th echelon), continuing with the refereeing. In 2008, I managed to move up to the 3rd league. Then, I had good years with appearances in the first leagues and in the Spanish Cup “.

Cristian Lixandru: “I worked as a computer scientist”

With over 70 delegations in the first two divisions in Spain, Lixandru was the 4th official in matches as Atletico – Real Madrid, Sevilla – Barcelona or Betis – Barcelona. “After so many years, I was left with beautiful memories. To be part of the brigade at Real’s matches, Guardiola’s Barcelona was extraordinary. I wouldn’t have even imagined it. ”

The former player started from the bottom in Spain, where no one knew him. Coming without documents, the Romanian worked hard to fulfill his dream. “The scale of the third league in Spain does not allow you to make a living from it. I worked all the time as a computer scientist. In the afternoon I went to training and on weekends to matches. In the country, many people knew me because of my father.

Here, I have the satisfaction that I started from scratch. I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know anyone and no one had heard of me. But with a lot of work, with sacrifices, I succeeded ”. Cristian says that he did not suffer due to the fact that he is Romanian: “Spain is very open from this point of view. I never really felt marginalized or wronged because I am Romanian. I was treated with respect by my colleagues, as well as the coaches or players I refereed ”.

Cristian Lixandru

Coincidence with Andone and Dani Alves

Lixandru was delegated to matches in which the main actors were Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta, Ramos, Guardiola, Mourinho or Simeone, but he also joined the brigade in games in which Romanians were involved. “I refereed Cosmin Contra at an Alcorcón – Numancia. I had been a college classmate with him in Timisoara. He was upset, he had lost the game, and we didn’t talk much. I remember going to Andone’s game when he was in Cordoba.

He was preparing to enter the field and Dani Alves had lost his contact lens. Andone found her and was able to continue the game. I talked to Florin then in Romanian. I have known him since he played in the lower leagues “, the former referee goes back in time.

Lixandru: “We don’t represent much anymore”

Although he has been based in Spain for almost 20 years, Lixandru carefully watches Romanian football and is up to date with everything that happens in Ligue 1. Former teammate with Vali Badea at Jiul or Tătărușanu at Juventus Bucharest, he analyzed: “The results speak for themselves ! At both clubs and the national team, the level has dropped! We barely qualify with one team in the Conference League.

We no longer have representatives in the Champions League. The national team, too. When I came to Spain, everyone knew about our national team. The Spaniards heard about Romania and told you about Hagi, Popescu, Craioveanu, Gâlcă, Adrian Ilie… Now, we no longer have players in strong leagues. It’s a shame, but Romanian football is no longer a big thing on a European level

Cristian Lixandru: “Kovacs is among the best”

However, he praised the increase in our refereeing: “It is somewhat strange, but from a championship that has regressed in recent years, there are appreciated referees. Kovacs is among the best in the world. I saw the Champions League semifinal and the Conference League final. They had performances that rose to the level of competition.

I congratulate him and his assistants for their evolutions and for representing Romanian football and refereeing at the World Cup. After 30 years, we have referees at the World Cup again.

As far as I know, the last referee I had there was Nicolae Grigorescu, my former boss at AJF Timiș and a former colleague of my father at many matches in Division B. So was Hațegan. He is one of the most valuable referees! I wish him good health and his recovery as soon as possible! ”

Lixandru: “When the children were born, I was at the match”

Retired in 2021, Lixandru admits that in all these years the arbitration has given him unforgettable stories, but he also missed important moments. “In the almost 20 years spent in Spanish football, I have lived incredible moments with which I will stay all my life, but the refereeing also requires sacrifices. For example, when my daughter was born, I was in San Sebastian. I was arbitrating there.

I could not be present at one of the most important events of my life. Then with my son as well. He was born on Friday and I went to the match in Valladolid on Saturday “, says the former referee. The two children, Ema, 9 years old, and Eric (7) easily follow in their father’s footsteps. They practice sports in Zaragoza, where their parents settled two decades ago.

“Ema does athletics and Eric recently started playing football. I would like at least one of them to carry on the tradition started by my father. The most important thing is to do a sport that will help them develop in life “.

He will be an observer in Spain

The Romanian who refereed Messi and Ronaldo will become an observer in Spain this year. “After almost 20 years without any injuries and without any missed matches, in the very last game of my career I got injured and I was forced to stay on the sidelines for a year. But from September I will return, this time as an observer in the 3rd league.

I will continue in the same field. An arbitrator, even after retirement, remains an arbitrator! That never changes “, concluded Cristian Lixandru, the one who left our county league and who came to referee the biggest stadiums in Spain!

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