Nathan Stagno made history for Gibraltar hockey this week as the first Gibraltarian to receive the ‘Golden Whistle’ in recognition of umpiring 100 senior international matches.
Leandro Negre, International Hockey Federation President, presented the award to Mr Stagno at the Hero Hockey World League quarter-final match between Australia and Germany in Raipur, India.
Mr Stagno was glowing with pride as both teams lined up to applaud the Gibraltarian along with six thousands hockey fans who attended the 4-1 win to Australia.
“For me, it is amazing,” said Mr Stagno after his presentation. “To come from a small country like Gibraltar, where there are only around 200 people who play hockey, you can imagine how happy I feel to have been given the opportunity to umpire at this level and to get the Golden Whistle.”
Mr Stagno sent his ‘utmost gratitude’ towards his family and work colleagues who have continuously supported him to ‘the ends of the Earth’.
“It was extremely emotional to be recognised for my achievements in front of thousands of people,” he told the Chronicle yesterday after umpiring a 3-2 semi-final win for Australia against Holland.
Mr Stagno described the FIH President from Barcelona as ‘an old friend’ and mentioned that the Catalan whispered in his ear that he was proud to present the award to someone from Gibraltar.
“He shook my hand and told me that he was extremely happy that it was he who presented me the award and particularly because I was from Gibraltar.”
He becomes the 36th men’s umpire to receive a ‘Golden Whistle’ and the sixth from Great Britain, closing the gap with Australia (eight) and the Nederland’s (seven).
Steven Linares, Minister for Sport, also congratulated the veteran umpire yesterday, hailing the award as a ‘magnificent achievement’ and a reflection of Mr Stagno’s ‘inspired career’.
“This is a fantastic achievement for Nathan, the Gibraltar Hockey Association and for Gibraltar as a whole,” he said.
Carl Ramagge, Gibraltar Hockey Association President, commended Mr Stagno’s achievement in joining a ‘very distinguished club of umpires’ and flying the flag for the Rock.
“The GHA would like to congratulate Nathan on this fantastic achievement and wish him the best of luck in the forthcoming season,” he said. “He has made it to the pinnacle of umpiring, and with an Olympic Games looming, we are all fully behind his efforts to make it a memorable 2015/ 2016 season for himself and for Gibraltar Hockey in general.”
During his career, Mr Stagno has officiated at some of the sport’s biggest competitions, including the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, two Champions Trophy events and a Commonwealth Games. As well as his 100 senior matches, Mr Stagno has also umpired 21 junior internationals.
Mr Stagno, who is also selected as an umpire for the Olympics in Rio di Janeiro, Brazil, will retire from this year as he has hit the maximum age for elite level umpiring, 47.
“I am very excited for this tournament, mainly because this will be my last year of umpiring,” he said. “The Olympics in Rio will be my last tournament, so I will go out with a bang.”