Viktor Kassai is savouring "a very big honour" as he prepares to become the youngest final referee in UEFA Champions League history.
The 35-year-old Hungarian has been selected to take charge of tonight's showpiece between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC and he is relishing the prospect of some first-rate entertainment at Wembley. "A Champions League final is an absolutely top match, so we can expect a celebration of football," Kassai told UEFA.com. "I hope all the spectators in the stadium and watching on TV will enjoy the match, and I hope it'll be a nice game."
Kassai has plenty of big-match experience, having taken charge of last summer's FIFA World Cup semi-final between Spain and Germany, and he will draw on that knowledge ahead of the match. "Our preparation is the same as before; the trick is to never change your style," he explained. "
Mentally we have to be very concentrated, physically we have to be at peak fitness. In both senses we are and we're absolutely ready for the match."
The travel agent will become the fourth Hungarian to referee European Champion Clubs' Cup final and the third, Sándor Puhl – who oversaw Borussia Dortmund's 1997 victory against Juventus – has fond memories of the occasion. "For a footballer it's a very important step to be involved in such event; for a referee it's exactly the same," Puhl said. "Viktor knows his job. I cannot give any hints and I don't think it is possible to give advice. What's definite is that he should do [his job] well."
Kassai is under no illusion as to how much it means to his country, adding: "It's a very big honour for me and for my team, because it's very important that the referee is not alone in officiating the match. We have a team of seven officials and we'll do our best. Of course we're proud; after Károly Palotai did the final twice, the last [Hungarian], Sándor Puhl, was 14 years ago. It's a very, very big honour and a pleasure for us to continue this legendary level of Hungarian referee. All of us are very very proud, but it's also a responsibility to continue their good work."
Kassai's predecessor as UEFA Champions League final referee, Howard Webb – who went on to do the FIFA World Cup final last summer – has some words of advice for his colleague. "He should go out there, be confident and have a good game because they've proven themselves over a period of time and on many occasions," Webb told UEFA.com. "The day will fly by because it always does but try to take it all in, have a good look around and appreciate what an amazing thing you're involved in.
At some point in the night, take a second to just appreciate where you are and what you're doing and what a privileged position you're in."
Webb was 38 when he took charge of last season's showpiece in Madrid – the UEFA Champions League final's previous youngest referee – and, at three years younger, Kassai is all too aware of how quickly this honour has come his way. "If I'm honest I didn't [expect it so soon]," he said. "But in refereeing, and in football, it's not important how old you are, the most important [thing] is the performance. If a referee goes on to the field, no one asks how old he is or which country he's from; it's important to make good decisions and give a good performance. That's all."
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