With a stable job as a policeman, and a baby on the way, it cannot have been easy for Andreas Ekberg to take the decision in January to devote himself full time to refereeing. Yet the move is already paying dividends for the 29-year-old from Lund, who gave up his beat in Malmo to work together with the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), for whom he has been officiating top-flight encounters since 2009.
"Whether in policing or in refereeing, you can't just shout at people and tell them what to do or not to do," said Ekberg, chosen to referee Wednesday's UEFA European Under-17 Championship final between England and the Netherlands. "You have to be able to connect with people on a human level; if you can't do that you won't be good at either job.
"I've not refereed either of these teams yet at this tournament, but England and the Netherlands are both clearly very strong and skilful sides," continued Ekberg, the man in the middle for two games so far, Scotland v Portugal and Portugal v Germany, both in Group B. "They have been scoring a lot and everyone in football loves goals, so let's hope there are lots more in the final."
Part of the select band of up-and-coming referees – all on the FIFA list and aged between 27 and 31 – brought in to officiate at these finals, how would Ekberg sum up his Maltese adventure? "It's been a fabulous two and a half weeks," he said when speaking to UEFA.com at the officials' base in Ramla Bay. "Organisationally, this has been absolutely perfect – we couldn't have asked for more support.
"The hardest part is being away from my daughter, as she was only six weeks old when I left. Fortunately my wife sends me new pictures every morning so I can see how she's growing!
"I don't know what the future holds," he added, before heading off for an early-evening training session, "but I'm going to try and go as far as possible. I'm only 29, so I have a lot of years left in this business.
Hopefully I can do what's needed to reach the top."
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