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'Man in the Middle': Europe's referees return to play

UEFA has unveiled the fourth and final episode of 'Man in the Middle' – a UEFA.tv series giving unique insights into the lives of some of Europe's top referees.

The latest episode focuses on the resumption of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League after the COVID pandemic lockdown in the spring, and referees' experiences as they returned to European action.

Watch episode four of Man in the Middle now

Watch episode three

Watch episode two

Watch episode one

'Man in the Middle', which has been unveiled in weekly episodes, gives a close-up view of the personal and professional lives of 16 leading 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.

 Björn Kuipers is among the referees featured in the pioneering series
Björn Kuipers is among the referees featured in the pioneering seriesUEFA via Getty Images

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 focus on one of football's toughest jobs.

Back on the field

In the final instalment of the series, episode four picks up the story where it left off in episode three, with UEFA's plans to implement the 'Return to Play' project – which culminated in a unique UEFA Champions League final tournament in Lisbon in August. UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti talks about the challenges that UEFA faced.

Equipment and technology also play an important role in refereeing. The spotlight turns to two key partners, as we hear from Hawk-Eye and Macron on how they deliver equipment and clothing to help the officials concentrate on the task at hand.

We hear too from referees involved in the Lisbon tournament, in particular Italian arbiter Daniele Orsato who took charge of the final between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern München, while UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti gives his verdict on the referees' excellent showing in Portugal.

Which referees feature in episode four?

Szymon Marciniak is another of the referees involved
Szymon Marciniak is another of the referees involvedUEFA via Getty Images

Björn Kuipers – Netherlands

Antonio Mateu Lahoz – Spain

Danny Makkelie – Netherlands

Szymon Marciniak – Poland

Daniele Orsato – Italy

Damir Skomina – Slovenia

Anthony Taylor – England

Key quotes: Football's restart challenge

Giorgio Marchetti: "Since the beginning of this crisis related to the pandemic, we've been working a lot, and that's been a big challenge: restarting the season…the level of understanding, mutual support and cooperation was really outstanding. This made it possible, not only for UEFA but also for all domestic competitions to restart, and to take a very difficult season to its end, which was so essential to football and to its fans."

Roberto Rosetti: "UEFA believed that it was crucial to come back onto the field of play. And UEFA took action immediately. UEFA decided to postpone the EURO, and this was so important for the national associations because, in this way, they could restart and finish their championships. And then UEFA could restart the competitions."

Antonio Mateu Lahoz also figures in this episode
Antonio Mateu Lahoz also figures in this episodeAFP via Getty Images

Key quotes: Tuning up for a big assignment

Anthony Taylor: "The build-up to a Champions League quarter-final is really exciting. There's less atmosphere in terms of spectators [owing to this year's measures], but once that warm-up starts, the real important thing from my point of view is that both me and the rest of the team are solely focused on what lies ahead of us…the success of me as an individual referee isn't just down to me, it's down to everybody else in the team."

Key quote: Being there…

Antonio Mateu Lahoz: "Nowadays, the most important thing is that we are healthy. We had the chance to go to Lisbon. We know that football gives us happiness and football is able to demonstrate our values. And for us to take part in it…I feel proud."

UEFA Champions League final medal ceremony

Key quote: Refereeing a Champions League final

Daniele Orsato: "It was fantastic. I had a fantastic experience. The Champions League final was my dream, and now it's a reality, it's no longer a dream."

Key quote: Referee – and family man

Björn Kuipers: "We have a family business…Let's say I had an agenda that was really full of obligations. And when coronavirus came, there was no football…there was only time for my family. And I saw I gave too little time in previous years to my children. Away from refereeing, I'm a businessman, and I should be more of a family man. So in the future, I will change this a little bit. I will be more a family man and less a businessman."

Key quotes: 'Silence is golden'

Giorgio Marchetti: "When nobody speaks about the referee, it means that the referee has done a very good job."

Roberto Rosetti: "The results were clear for everyone…of course, we had some controversial situations — but we had no important mistakes. And in the end, no one really talked about the referees."

Read about episode 3: Exceptional times – the referees' story

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