Pride in his achievements and confidence in his ability are major sensations for Björn Kuipers as the Dutch referee looks ahead to taking charge of Friday's UEFA Super Cup between UEFA Champions League holders FC Barcelona and UEFA Europa League winners FC Porto at the Stade Louis II in Monaco.
Kuipers will be accompanied on his assignment by a team of compatriots – assistant referees Erwin Zeinstra and Berry Simons, fourth official Bas Nijhuis and additional assistant referees Richard Liesveld and Danny Makkelie.
"It's a wonderful surprise – when the appointment for the Super Cup match came, I was very happy," Kuipers told UEFA.com. "When I'm lining up with the teams before Friday's game, I will be proud and thinking how fantastic it is to be here."
The 38-year-old supermarket owner from Oldenzaal in the eastern Netherlands joined the international list in 2006 and has already compiled some impressive achievements. If his first steps up the international ladder in his first year culminated in him refereeing the final of the 2006 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, he repeated the feat at the U21 Championship in 2009.
More recently he officiated at one play-off match, two group stage games and a round of 16 fixture in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League, and also handled three UEFA Europa League matches last season, including the semi-final first leg between Porto and Villarreal CF. Yet for Kuipers, whose club record is no less eye-catching, his appointment for Friday's showpiece event in Monaco represents a new zenith.
It also rewards his efforts since taking the plunge as a match official aged 16 after, like many referees, he had started out as a footballer. "My father was a referee," he said, "and when I was on the pitch as a player, I was the guy who always knew better than the referee! So my father said that if I knew everything so well, maybe I should try being a referee. And that's what I did.
"I never thought about reaching this level because it was a hobby then – but everything I want to do, I like to aim to reach the top," added Kuipers, who is married with two young children – a two-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. "I've never really had a role model, although I obviously appreciate various referees and their different styles. I don't think it's good to copy anyone."
Concentration is a vital component of a referee's armoury, and Kuipers insists on the absolute need to remain completely focused on the job from the opening whistle to the final instant. "It's obviously important to make the correct first decision in a match to gain confidence," he explained, "but it's not only the first minute in a match that is important – it's the entire match. As a referee at this level, you can have a very good match as a referee but you can then make a mistake in the last minute – so you have to concentrate throughout the game."
While Friday is a big moment in the lives of Kuipers and his colleagues, the nature of their profession means they will approach the occasion with customary thoroughness. "Our preparation will be the same as for other matches, as professionals we will not treat it any differently." Those preparations will include a "team" meeting before the trip to the stadium. "Then, when we are in the dressing rooms, we will be relaxed, there will be a good atmosphere – and we will be strong for each other when we go out on to the field."
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