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Spain's Carlos Velasco Carballo is no stranger to big occasions, having refereed the 2011 UEFA Europa League final, but being tasked with officiating the opening game at a UEFA European Championship is a rare honour indeed. Only 12 men have previously had the pleasure, and the 41-year-old told UEFA.com that he was confident he would not become unlucky No13 when Poland face Greece on Friday. In fact, he hopes he will barely be noticed.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to referee the opening match at UEFA EURO 2012?
Carlos Velasco Carballo: Above all it's a source of great happiness and honour to have the chance to referee such an important and significant match. After 25 years of refereeing and training – all the matches, all the grounds I have been to, starting in the youth sector and amateur league – to have made it all the way to an important occasion such as this is just great.
UEFA.com: You are known as a great analyst of teams and players. How important is it to know the tactics of each team?
Velasco Carballo: I think that professional refereeing has developed a lot in recent years, with regards to the physical, psychological and technical aspects, and consistency. I think we have to continue on that path and focus on the technical development of football itself as, without a doubt, tactics affect our work. Professional referees of today and the future should know about all of this.
UEFA.com: What will you tell your assistants before the match? What advice will you give them?
Velasco Carballo: During the last few hours I will try to get across the mantra that they should 'enjoy it and have fun', because in matches like these you don't have to worry about motivation and concentration; the match takes care of that. It's more important to release the pressure and tension, to make sure there is a positive vibe within the group. Conversations in the days leading up to the game have been more technical, so we needn't worry about that.
UEFA.com: How do you prepare for the matches?
Velasco Carballo: I'm not such a modern person. I don't like to have music in the dressing room – I'm one of a minority who doesn't. I prefer to talk, to communicate and talk to my colleagues, make jokes and stay relaxed. I'm a very calm person, and a big match like Friday's doesn't affect me that much.
UEFA.com: What are your own aims for UEFA EURO 2012?
Velasco Carballo: It's a dream come true to be here and now my objective is to meet expectations, to make sure with my refereeing colleagues that football is the main thing. That is our ambition, that at the end of the tournament you're all talking about football.
The full refereeing teams for the first four matches can be found here.
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