On Tuesday 13 March, two days before his 45th birthday, German referee Markus Merk will return to Old Trafford, where his handling of the 2003 UEFA Champions League final between AC Milan and Juventus earned him a UEFA Fair Play award. Markus Merk has been selected to referee the commemorative match between Manchester United FC and a Europe XI, which marks the 50th anniversaries of the Treaty of Rome and of United's entry into European football.
The match between FC Porto and Arsenal FC on Matchday 6 of the current UEFA Champions League campaign in December was Markus Merk's 117th international game. His first major tournament was the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Since then, he has been selected for the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups; the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup; EURO 2000; and EURO 2004 where, after handling the France v England and Denmark v Sweden matches, he produced an impeccable performance in the final between Greece and Portugal at the Estádio da Luz.
Before the 2003 final at Old Trafford, Markus Merk had made his debut at a UEFA final by handling FC Barcelona's 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain FC in the Cup Winner's Cup in Rotterdam. This will be his fourth visit to Old Trafford, the most recent being to handle the UEFA EURO 2008TM qualifier between England and FYR Macedonia last October. It will be his sixth encounter with Manchester United FC, the last of which was when Sir Alex Ferguson's side met their most recent UEFA Champions League opponents, LOSC Lille Métropole at the Stade de France on 2 November 2005.
In recent times, Markus Merk has given up his dental practice to embark on a new career in lecturing but has maintained his humanitarian projects which started in 1993 when he established a village at Sogospatty, near the Indian city of Trichy, for disadvantaged children and have steadily expanded since then.
As befits the occasion, Markus Merk will be leading a European team at Old Trafford. His assistant referees will be Alessandro Griselli of Italy (who rounded off 2006 with Stefano Farina at the UEFA Champions League match between Hamburger SV and PFC CSKA Moskva on Matchday 6) and Mark Simons of Belgium (in Frank De Bleeckere's team for the Matchday 5 game between FC Internazionale Milano and Sporting Clube de Portugal at San Siro). The Fourth Official will be Howard Webb of England, who handled the FC Steaua Bucuresti v Olympique Lyonnais game during this season's UEFA Champions League group phase.
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