Teamwork, fitness and technical analysis: all factors that are enabling referee Mark Clattenburg to fulfil a boyhood dream in taking charge of Sunday's UEFA EURO 2016 final.
It has been some season for Mark Clattenburg. Having officiated at the FA Cup final and then the UEFA Champions League showpiece in May, the 41-year old is about to add the UEFA EURO 2016 showdown between Portugal and France at Saint-Denis to his impressive CV.
In a tournament in which the standard of all the refereeing teams has been impressively high, Clattenburg has joined his peers in focusing on working together as a team, developing fitness levels and preparing meticulously, including detailed analysis of how sides play.
How did it feel to hear you will referee the UEFA EURO 2016 final?
Mark Clattenburg: Sunday is one of the biggest games in the world and it's going to be an amazing experience, something my family and I can look back on and be extremely proud of. There have been many sacrifices in life, but it's all worth it at the end of the day, to walk out on Sunday with Portugal and France. And hopefully it will be a great game.
How important is self-analysis in developing as a referee?
Clattenburg: Through the season, you're looking to improve your performances and I have great referee officers in Pierluigi Collina, Marc Batta and Hugh Dallas who help with their support and guidance. But then you look at your colleagues and they are setting the bar extremely high now.
As a referee, I want to improve and keep above the next generation. I have to work hard on my fitness levels and this season in particular, I have used a lot of analysis of team tactics and individual players. If you mix the two together, it will improve your refereeing. We've had great support from analysts in this tournament and it has really helped us all.
How has player behaviour helped the referees in the tournament?
Clattenburg: There have been a lot of positive comments across the footballing world about the standard of refereeing at the final tournament. There's always room for improvement but the behaviour of the players has been fantastic – on the whole, the players have just got on with the match.
There's been no dissent, no mobbing of the referee and that's a wonderful sight to see. That's because the Referees Committee went to see the each of the teams before the tournament and discussed their expectations with them in person. It gives a great vibe for the image of the sport and makes our job a lot easier.
How important has teamwork been to this success?
Clattenburg: A referee is only as good as his team and you're only as good as your weakest link. I'm responsible for my team and I have to get the best out of them. We learn from our mistakes to make us stronger as a group and we're reaching the highs because we work together and not as individuals.
To hear more from Mark Clattenburg, click on the video player.