Portuguese referee Vitor Manuel Melo Pereira has been rewarded for more than 20 years of dedication with his appointment to take charge of Wednesday's UEFA Cup final.
It will be a memorable moment for the 45-year-old Lisbon-born telecommunications expert when he leads out the Feyenoord and BV Borussia Dortmund teams for the game in Rotterdam's Feijenoord stadium as his UEFA career will be drawing to a close.
"I feel very happy to have been chosen after 23 years in this career - it's a great honour," said Pereira, who began the current season by officiating at the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool FC and FC Bayern München in Monaco last August.
"I have refereed three semi-finals in UEFA competitions, so sometimes you do dream about refereeing a final, because you work very hard each season to receive good appointments. Then again, there are many other good referees, and it's up to the UEFA referees committee to take the decision that they feel is right."
Pereira began his UEFA career with an Under-18 appointment in October 1992, and has since refereed 78 international matches, including two games at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and three at EURO 2000™. His most recent appointment saw him take charge of the thrilling UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Liverpool, which the Germans won 4-2.
Pereira says that his preparations for the UEFA Cup final will be more or less the same as for the thousands of other games that he has refereed during his long and distinguished career. "I've worked very hard during the years to keep myself fit," he said. "I've also spent considerable time preparing myself mentally for such matches, so I think that I'll be OK. I'm certainly looking forward to it."
'A good career'
Once the final whistle has gone in Rotterdam, and the players and match officials have collected their medals, completed their celebrations and retired to the dressing room, will Pereira feel a moment of sadness? "I don't think so...I will feel emotional, for sure, but you have to accept that things come to an end. I've had a good career which I can look back on with pride - and I've got a lot of things to look forward to in the future," said Pereira, who hopes to stay in the refereeing sector in some capacity in his native Portugal.
World Cup swansong
The immediate future for Pereira will still be on the field. This summer, he is one of 14 European referees going to the World Cup in Korea/Japan. Before then, a fine UEFA career which has earned Pereira the respect of everyone throughout the game is being given a fitting finale on Wednesday.
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