On his first refereeing course, the young Urs Meier was asked in a questionnaire to fill out his objectives as a match official. His answer? "To referee at the 1998 [FIFA] World Cup".
The Swiss referee reached his goal in style, taking charge of two matches in France. He will accompany 13 other European referees to this summer's final round in Korea/Japan - but before then, Meier will collect another honour on Wednesday night, when he referees the UEFA Champions League final between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Real Madrid CF at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
Meier, who is 43 and comes from the Swiss town of Würenlos near Zürich, set himself targets as a young man when he realised that his career as a football player was not to be fulfilled.
"I became a referee because I didn't play football that well. I wanted to be involved in football at great stadiums such as the San Siro in Milan, and thought that I could eventually do so as a referee," he says.
Having risen through the lower levels, Meier - a businessman who runs his own household equipment and lighting firm - made his Swiss top-flight debut when he refereed an encounter between BSC Young Boys and FC St. Gallen in 1991, and graduated to the international list in 1994, taking charge of an Under-16 game between the Republic of Ireland and England.
By November 1995, Meier was officiating in the UEFA Champions League, beginning with a group match between Blackburn Rovers FC and Legia Warszawa in England, and over the next two years, his rise was rapid, culminating in a memorable year in 1998.
In January of that year, he took charge of the match between France and Spain which marked the opening of the Stade de France in Paris Saint-Denis, and he went on that summer to referee what he describes as the most remarkable game of his career - the FIFA World Cup match between the USA and Iran in Lyon.
Peace on the field
The build-up to the game centred on previous non-sporting hostilities between the two countries - but the match itself, as Meier says, "gave both teams the chance to show that there was peace on the football field".
"It was moving before the game to see the two teams join together for the pre-match photo, and the atmosphere in the stadium was unbelievable. It was certainly the most memorable experience I've had so far as a referee," he adds.
Calm and confident
One reason why Meier has forged a career as a referee is his authority on the pitch. By his own admission, he doesn't become over-awed by the fame of the players around him. "I'm extremely calm before matches," he explains. "And I don't really think about being with stars on the pitch."
A star player - a fair player
"I go on the field and referee two teams, it doesn't matter whether Ronaldo or [Zinedine] Zidane are on the field. The important thing for me is the match - in fact I consider a star player to be someone who's fair on the pitch, and you don't have to be a star to be fair."
Following the Champions League final, Meier steps up preparations for World Cup duty in the Far East. "It's obviously something very special to be there," he says. "The World Cup is a festival of football, and it's a tremendous thing for the referees to be a part of it."
"I'll be one of 36 referees, and the final round comprises 64 matches, so I'll be taken the competition as it comes," he says. "You're appointed for your first match, you try to give the best performance you can, and then see what happens."
After Wednesday's occasion in Glasgow and the World Cup, there's no question of Meier winding down his ambitions and settling for a quiet last couple of years before reaching retirement age. "My aim will be to keep my standards as high as I can," he promises. "If I keep up my level, I'd like to be in contention for a place on the referees' list for the 2004 UEFA European Championship."
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