The UEFA European Under-17 Championship provides as important an opportunity for match officials as it does for players. Slovakia's Ivan Kružliak, the referee selected to officiate tomorrow's final, is testament to that, as he prepares for the biggest match of his career to date. He spoke to UEFA.com about his time in Slovenia and how he came to take up his whistle.
UEFA.com: When did you first become involved in officiating?
Ivan Kružliak: I started at 16. My father and his friends were all referees so it was always in my mind that one day I could do it. Then I had quite a serious injury to my hand. I was a goalkeeper, so I had to stop playing for half a year. That's when I began my refereeing career, then when I was 21 I had to choose if I wanted to play or be a referee. I think I chose right. Now I'm 28, so some people might call me experienced, but I'm still young and this is my first final tournament.
UEFA.com: How have you found your first final tournament?
Kružliak: It has been really good, the organisation has been excellent. We have had perfect conditions for training, and the stadiums are great. All teams have behaved well, nothing serious has happened, so we've enjoyed it.
UEFA.com: The referees are all in the same base. Do you analyse each other's performances?
Kružliak: After each game we have a briefing with an observer, where we watch clips of situations and analyse them. The first meeting is just with the team of officials from that game, but then we have a meeting as a group and we watch videos of the other games to learn from our colleagues and also look at the teams themselves for our future games.
UEFA.com: That analysis must be valuable...
Kružliak: It is a very useful experience. As referees joke, "learn from mistakes, but the mistakes of another referee". It is not possible to be faultless every time, we are only human. But I think that so far in Slovenia everything has been good from our side, which is very important.
UEFA.com: Only one team can officiate the final, how does the selection process work?
Kružliak: At the beginning there are six referees and eight assistants, then the Referees Committee has the big task of picking the best performers to stay for the semi-final and the final.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to be the man in the middle for the final?
Kružliak: When I started my refereeing career I never thought I would be in the FIFA list – now I'm in the final of this European Championship! It is a great feeling, a great experience and I am really enjoying it. I'm not nervous yet, but before every game I think a referee should feel a little nervous. It helps them to concentrate and to prepare for the game.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.