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Exceptional times: the referees’ story

UEFA has unveiled the third episode of ‘Man in the Middle’ – a four-part UEFA.tv series giving unique insights into the lives of some of Europe’s top referees.

Watch episode three now


The latest episode focuses on referees’ experiences during the COVID pandemic lockdown in the spring, and how UEFA kept match officials fit and prepared for football’s eventual return.

Watch episode two

Watch episode one

‘Man in the Middle’, currently being unveiled in weekly episodes, gives a close-up view of the personal and professional lives of 16 top referees over an 18-month period from February 2019 to August 2020 – highlighting in particular what it takes to be a match official in the UEFA Champions League.

First UEFA.tv documentary series

Free-to-view on UEFA.tv, ‘Man in the Middle’ is the first original documentary series produced for UEFA’s own digital video platform.

Featuring behind-the-scenes access and on-field exchanges under the Champions League spotlight, 'Man in the Middle' brings viewers closer than ever before to the life of a referee and puts the spotlight on one of football’s toughest jobs.

Which referees feature in episode three?

Carlos del Cerro Grande – Spain

 Clément Turpin
Clément TurpinUEFA via Getty Images

Björn Kuipers – Netherlands

Danny Makkelie – Netherlands

Anthony Taylor – England

Clément Turpin – France

Felix Zwayer – Germany

Staying fit in lockdown

The third episode of ‘Man in the Middle’, released on Monday, begins with knockout phase matches from the 2019/20 season, which were played before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place across Europe.

We follow the stories of the referees during the subsequent lockdown, and also hear from UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti and Belgian sports scientist and UEFA referee fitness expert Werner Helsen.

Helsen opens the window on UEFA’s online fitness programme and specific training routines which kept the referees in shape at home, as well as in contact with UEFA.

Referees' lockdown fitness training
Referees' lockdown fitness training

Key quotes: UEFA’s home training programme

Werner Helsen: “We were thinking about bringing together the referees and providing some sessions online that they could do at home without any equipment.

“As a sports scientist, I have access to the most up-to-date knowledge in any area, and in this aspect, I was very fortunate to have access to a number of publications that were very helpful to provide the referees with practical advice on what to do, and maybe even more importantly, what not to do.”

Danny Makkelie: “I kept myself physically and mentally prepared. I have the advantage of having a small gym at home, and therefore I was able to do cardio training on the treadmill and strength training. And I kept myself mentally in shape with video tests from UEFA and the KNVB [Royal Netherlands Football Association].”

Roberto Rosetti: “[The referees] were very responsible. So we were always in contact with them, and they showed us that they are really, really passionate.”

Werner Helsen also provides a wealth of data and information that shows just how fit Europe’s leading referees – sporting athletes in their own right – have to be to officiate at the game’s highest levels.

Key quote: Learning and sharing

Werner Helsen: “In these challenging times for the whole world, we now know more than ever that we are interconnected and increasingly reliant on learning from the experience of others and sharing information.”

Key quote: Taking a ‘positive’ from lockdown life

Clément Turpin: “You know, in each crisis you have opportunities. So it was a new experience, and in this experience there are so many good things to live through. Just a very small thing, but so important: the possibility to have breakfast with my wife, with my kids, 35 times successively. The possibility to read a story with them, the possibility to do some different activities outside. I rediscovered many small but such sweet things with my kids and my wife.”

Also in 'Man in the Middle', episode three

Danny Makkelie, a part-time police inspector, talks about the similarities between his ‘day job’ and his role as a referee.

Danny Makkelie
Danny MakkelieUEFA via Getty Images

Anthony Taylor explains how important it has been to volunteer – like he did in his local area – and help people during tough times.

Carlos del Cerro Grande highlights the importance of respect as a key value, not only in football but also in life itself.

Key quotes: Two roles – same goals

Danny Makkelie: “For me, the two roles of a referee and a police officer are similar, because in both professions you take care of fair play, you need effective communication, you need leadership to de-escalate situations in which everybody is emotionally hot. We need to cooperate; we have to make quick decisions. So the authority of a police officer and a referee is similar.”

Key quotes: Referees’ helping hand

Anthony Taylor: “I felt that anybody who was fit and healthy and was able to help in any way, I think it’s the least that anybody could have done.”

Anthony Taylor
Anthony TaylorUEFA via Getty Images

Roberto Rosetti: “The referees are not only people who make decisions on the field of play – but behind the referees, we also want men, also great men. So I’m very happy, I’m very proud of them.”

Key quote: The word ‘Respect’

Carlos del Cerro Grande: “I can’t understand why people abuse referees, especially when they are really, really young, they are learning the way to referee, and [people] abuse them. I can’t accept it. I think ‘respect’ is a beautiful word, and everybody in football should understand it and apply it.”

Read about Episode 2: Psychology's role

Read about Episode 2: Reaching the refereeing summit

Read about Episode 1: UEFA announces 'Man in the Middle' documentary