Serbia's Milorad Mažić is "excited and proud" to referee the UEFA Super Cup between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying focus and people management skills are key to a good performance.
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"Be proud, be focused, and be yourself". Three key sentiments that Serbian referee Milorad Mažić is taking into Tuesday's UEFA Super Cup between Real Madrid and Sevilla in Trondheim.
The 43-year-old official from Vrbas, a town of 25,000 inhabitants located 130 kilometres north of Belgrade, is naturally relishing the prospect of his first major UEFA final, but stresses that it is crucial for a referee not to let emotions take over on such a big occasion.
"I feel excited and proud, but you must remember to stay focused and confident before the match and after the first whistle," says the company director in the meat industry. He gained his international badge in 2009 and has amassed a wealth of experience since then, most recently taking charge of three matches at UEFA EURO 2016.
Mažić will be accompanied in Trondheim by four compatriots – assistant referees Milovan Ristić and Dalibor Djurdjević, and additional assistant referees Danilo Grujić and Nenad Djokić. Szymon Marciniak (Poland) is the fourth official. "Just like the two teams of players, the referees are also a team, and this is a great achievement for all of us," he added. "We'll be motivating each other to produce our very best."
Mažić's entrance into refereeing in his early 20s was similar to many of his colleagues. "I was a footballer when I was younger, but I suffered an injury," he reflects. "I took a break, and my friends suggested I try refereeing. After my first match, I realised how much I liked the job. From that moment, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
"I watched all of the great UEFA referees at the time and tried to take a little something from all of them, while staying true to my own personality – which is extremely important for any referee."
The married father of two young boys, who places great importance on spending time with his family amid his busy schedule, has twice refereed matches involving Real Madrid, both in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League; at Basel in the group stage, and at Atlético Madrid in the quarter-final second leg.
He has also been involved in two Sevilla games – the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg against Valencia, and the same season's UEFA Europa League final, when he was fourth official for Sevilla's victory over Benfica in a penalty shoot-out in Turin.
The refereeing team will travel to Trondheim fully prepared, not only physically and mentally, but also in terms of knowing about the two teams. UEFA encourages its referees to study the tactics and players of the teams they will be taking charge of, and Mažić is a total advocate.
"It's good to study in advance, because it helps you and your colleagues to feel more confident and know what to expect," he says. "The use of analysts at EURO 2016 to help the referees in this way was an excellent idea by UEFA, and a very big step.
"In addition, my professional job has helped me in refereeing, and refereeing has helped me in my work. In both areas, you learn in both areas how to manage people with different characters."
What of the future after this prestigious appointment in Norway? “There is always another match ahead," Mažić said. "So you must stay concentrated and work hard every day to learn, develop your skills and make progress. You must always say to yourself that there is room for improvement."