For match officials, an event like the UEFA European Under-17 Championship is as important an opportunity as it is for players. Estonia's Kristo Tohver, one of six referees joined by eight assistant referees and two Serbian fourth officials for the competition, spoke to UEFA.com about his time at the finals, performing the role of additional assistant referee in the UEFA Europa League and his life outside football.
UEFA.com: How have you found the tournament experience?
It's great to have people from 14 different countries. And the interesting thing is the way that people referee is very similar across Europe... The only difference is that the pre-match meeting takes longer – instead of 20 minutes, two hours to make sure you have all the small details right. But once you get out on the pitch the Laws of the Game are unified everywhere. You have a person from Estonia or Lithuania and you meet people from Israel or Spain and you do things very similarly. In that sense it's quite easy.
UEFA.com: And the matches?
Tohver: It's been very fair. The challenges have been very sporting. The players want to play and enjoy their football and it's easier to referee when they want to have fun.
UEFA.com: How has it been to have the help of UEFA refereeing instructors like Hugh Dallas and Vlado Sajn?
Tohver: Honestly it's one of the best parts of being here. We all want to learn, we all want to get somewhere in our careers and the only way of doing that is getting proper coaching. Even though in Estonia we have great observers, if you are 'at the source' it's great. All the meetings we've had with them and the local Serbian observers, after the first game Miroslav Radomoan gave me a couple of tips I need to integrate into my game.
UEFA.com: You have also had the experience of being an additional assistant referee in the UEFA Europa League, how have you found that?
Tohver: I think anything that helps referees make more correct decisions is a welcome addition to the game. I had been a referee for 13 years, then two years ago when we first had additional assistants, the vantage point is so different to the one you have on the pitch, you start to think: "How have we managed to get on without this?"
Also there are things you make sure about, one of the hard parts has been the concentration. You need to keep yourself involved in the game. What we have done is started moving in the byline. When the play is coming straight at you, this is something you're not used to, so we've tried to move a bit to the side to have a more familiar side angle. I'm definitely very pleased with what our team has achieved with the new experiment and I hope it continues.
UEFA.com: What do you do outside of refereeing?
Tohver: I worked in the arts for 12 years, an arts manager and producer by nature. I ran the one of the biggest film festivals in Eastern Europe, the Black Nights Film Festival, for six years. But I finished in April and am now managing director of a golf club near Tallinn. Golf in Estonia is enjoying exciting times, more people are playing. It goes well with the refereeing mentality, of being outside in nature, and the concentration you need for the game and the social aspect.
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