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Almost exactly a decade since officiating at her first international between Poland and Romania on 18 May 2002, Sweden's Jenny Palmqvist will referee Thursday's UEFA Women's Champions League final between Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Frankfurt at Munich's Olympiastadion.
The 42-year-old has already handled many of the biggest fixtures in the game, including the 2004 Olympic gold medal match and the second leg of the 2009 UEFA Women's Cup final in 2009 when 28,112 fans watched FCR 2001 Duisburg lift the trophy – a European club record crowd set to be beaten tomorrow. Palmqvist spoke to UEFA.com about the honour of refereeing the final and her preparations.
UEFA.com: Do you feel proud of your selection?
Jenny Palmqvist: Yes I do, I'm very proud, and I'm very honoured to be the official for this game.
UEFA.com: How would you rate a UEFA Women's Champions League final among all your career highlights?
Palmqvist: This one is really up [there], definitely top three in my career. And the development of women's football has just increased from year to year, so being here this year is fantastic.
UEFA.com: How demanding is refereeing today compared to maybe ten years ago?
Palmqvist: The game is much faster, the teams are getting more tactical. And that's what we referees also have to do to catch up: be faster and also tactical.
UEFA.com: So how do you get prepared for these kind of games; because I think there might be a difference between such a high quality game and maybe a normal league game ...
Palmqvist: Yes, but I'm lucky. Since I'm from Sweden, we have in my opinion one of the best leagues in the world, so I get very good quality games back home. And I think that's one of the reasons why my quality levels have been maintained, actually: I get good games back home.
I've been lucky that I've been a full-time professional referee, so I can put all the quality and fitness and tactics, I can analyse my games after. And all those pieces together make you a more complete referee. So the time and the professionalism is important for us referees to also be as good as the players today.
UEFA.com: So did you specially prepare for the teams tomorrow, and for the players. I mean, you know quite a few of them I guess, but do you prepare for individual players and for individual teams?
Palmqvist: Yes, definitely. At our pre-meeting we will go through all the teams, the players. We referees always have to be prepared for whatever can happen. And both teams, they suit us well.
UEFA.com: How did you get into football because you had promise in other sports?
Palmqvist: Well I would never have experienced an Olympics if I would [have stayed] as a gymnast or tennis player! So staying as a referee, and going to my third Olympics this summer, is because of football, actually. And it's funny, because I have three brothers, my father always wanted football players, but none of my brothers are into football, it's only me. So I think the passion for football I got from my father.
UEFA.com: Does it give you a special boost to referee in front of a huge crowd?
Palmqvist: Yes, the atmosphere becomes better, you can feel the [tension] coming up. And yes, it's always great when it's a lot of spectators.
UEFA.com: You have also refereed men's games occasionally, so would you say for you as a referee there's a difference in refereeing a men's game compared to a women's game?
Palmqvist: Definitely. But I would say when I have refereed men's games and gone back to women's, I think the big difference is that it's stronger, everything is stronger when you referee men. So then when you go back to referee women's games, it's maybe: "Oh that's just a small foul!" But for a women's game it could be a tough foul. I am a believer in that what you do a lot, you become better at. So that's why I choose to referee more women's games.
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