Referee Artyom Kuchin, from Kazakhstan, expects his heart to beat "a little more quickly" when the match officials and the two teams take the field ahead of Sunday's UEFA Regions' Cup final in Istanbul.
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Artyom Kuchin has been a pioneer for referees in his native Kazakhstan since the country joined UEFA in 2002.
Another proud step in his career comes on Sunday, when he takes charge of the UEFA Regions’ Cup final in Istanbul between Croatia’s Zagreb and the Republic of Ireland’s Region 2.
Kuchin, 39 years of age and a married father of two girls, will be accompanied on the big occasion at the TFF Riva Stadium by assistant referees Serghei Trofan (Moldova) and Goran Dujak (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Dimitar Meckarovski (FYR Macedonia) will be fourth official.
“I am happy to have been chosen, and proud to represent my country,” says Kuchin, who comes from Karaganda. He joined the international list in 2009 and has been taking charge of UEFA Europe League matches and international qualifiers in recent times.
“I’ve really enjoyed the Regions’ Cup finals. Turkey is a wonderful country, the tournament has been excellently organised, and to be honest, any of the referees here could have also been selected for the final – it’s been a great team to be with.”
The European tournament and final experience is not a new one for the trained sports teacher. He was a member of the refereeing team at the 2010 Under-17 finals in Liechtenstein, and was fourth official at the 2011 Under-19 final between Spain and Czech Republic in Romania.
In addition, Kuchin has seen both sides of the player/referee roles. He was a defender and central midfielder for several Kazakh clubs before becoming a referee. “I’ve been involved in football all of my life, I started playing at the age of eight,” he says. “At a certain stage in my playing career, I started thinking about how to stay involved in the future.”
“I was asked whether I would like to be a referee – I started, and I found it interesting. I always tried to do my best – and I’ve made it this far.”
Having been a player, Kuchin is ideally placed to have an understanding of how footballers think and act on the field, and how teams play. “It’s very helpful,” he reflects. “But now, I don’t think like a player, I think like a referee. I used to say things to referees when I played, but now I don’t appreciate it when players say things to me!”
Kuchin, who enjoys watching history films and spending quality time with his family – “they’re very important to me” – is acutely conscious of a referee’s role as a guardian of football’s values. “Respect is extremely important, from referees to the players and vice-versa,” he says. “And we are there as referees to protect players, and the image of football, on the field.”
He feels that teamwork is essential among match officials. “We’ve already started discussing the match together,” Kuchin says. “And we’ll spend time in the dressing-room before the match, encouraging each other to be strong and give each other as much help as we can.”
“I’m looking forward to the match – I’ll be fully concentrated before and during it – but I’m sure that my heart will beat a little more quickly when we come together with the teams before the first whistle…”