Being a referee is a tough job in any sport, but especially so in soccer, where the disrespectful players, combative fans, and overwhelming media attention make you wonder exactly what sort of person would willingly take up such a thankless position. A love for the sport is a preresquisite, but in the case of Swede Jonas Eriksson, the referee who will manage Monday's match between Ghana and the U.S., you have to wonder how much he must love the sport given that he's an independently wealthy millionaire.
It's true that many referees manage games as a hobby, but it's rare for for one to have such a notable private life. A former shareholder in a Swedish media company with offices in Stockholm, Hong Kong and Dubai, Eriksson sold his 15% share a number of years ago for about $10 million.
While many would retire with that sort of windfall, Eriksson instead decided to change careers, commenting that, "I've had a fantastic life as a businessman... but since 2011, I've dedicated myself to being a professional referee and I'm having the time of my life."
For the most part, Eriksson is a confident, respectful referee, save for a number of controversial decisions, including a run-in with Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini. After Eriksson sent off Martin Demichelis during a crucial Champions League match against Barcelona in 2014, Pellegrini commented that, "It was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge of such an important match."
Eriksson's bank account might be larger than that of some players, but that doesn't make him any less committed to the game. In fact, with match-fixing and bribery probes grabbing headlines across the world, Eriksson might be the perfect referee.
As Eriksson said himself, "All the money hasn't changed anything, the best thing I do in my life is still refereeing football."
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