“Never stop learning…always search for improvement” – UEFA Super Cup referee François Letexier’s recipe for success and satisfaction as he prepares for another key assignment in a flourishing career.
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The 34-year-old French match official takes charge of Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup encounter between Manchester City and Sevilla in Piraeus, and is delighted to have received what he describes as an “unexpected” accolade on a refereeing journey that began at the tender age of 13 in his native Brittany.
“I feel a mixture of satisfaction and surprise,” Letexier told UEFA.com ahead of the big game in Greece. “Now the aim is to produce a good performance for the occasion. A match like this is a special event because of its nature, but I see no reason to change the way that I prepare for every other match.”
Rennes-born Letexier, the proud father of a two-year-old son, has already scaled impressive heights in his career in France and beyond. At home, he officiated at his first Ligue 1 match at the age of 26 in January 2016, and was the youngest elite-level referee in France at the time. He received his international badge just one year later.
Growing as a referee
“The step up into Ligue 1 was difficult in the sense that you’re subject to greater media exposure,” he reflects. “Players are quicker and perhaps more charismatic as well, and refereeing errors can take on a greater significance. You have to learn how to adapt to new circumstances and grow into the job at the highest level.”
Despite his relatively young refereeing age, Letexier has already gathered a wealth of experience that will stand him in good stead for the eagerly awaited meeting between the respective winners of last season’s UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League which brings up the curtain on an exciting new season in Europe’s major club competitions.
In France, he took charge of the 2021 French Cup final. In Europe, he handled the 2019 UEFA Youth League final and was video assistant referee (VAR) at the 2021 UEFA Europa League final. On the national-team scene, Letexier refereed three matches at the 2021 UEFA U21 EURO finals.
Wednesday’s match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis is the latest stage on a pathway that began for Letexier in his early teenage years. “I was passionate about football,” he says, “and I watched a lot of games on TV. I was attracted to the referees’ work – how they viewed the game, how they took decisions.” An adventure got underway which Letexier admits wasn’t especially easy at the start.
“I struggled early on,” he recalls. “It took a lot of time – I had to grow up quickly. Refereeing helped me to get organised and structured. I have to thank a lot of people for encouraging me and giving me advice along the way. They helped me to pass each step and get to where I am now.”
Learning the ‘trade’
Experiences collected have played a key part in Letexier’s career trajectory. Courage, he insists, is a major asset for any referee, especially at the rarified higher levels of the game. “You have to take decisions that might be unpopular, and irrespective of the consequences. In shaping your refereeing, you can look at other referees and what they do, but I think it’s important to be yourself and have a real desire to progress. You never actually stop. I think that I’ll still be learning about being a referee when I blow the whistle for the last time!”
“Managing players in the right way is important, as well as understanding their expectations – why they may be frustrated or have sudden moments of anger or even euphoria in given match situations. When a match starts, you have to create an atmosphere of mutual respect, where players know what limits are being set – what can and cannot be accepted. It’s important to win their trust.”
Letexier will be accompanied by a champion refereeing team: Assistant referees and compatriots Cyril Mugnier and Mehdi Rahmouni, with Espen Eskås (Norway) serving as fourth official. Jérôme Brisard (France) is video assistant referee (VAR) and his assistants are Eric Wattellier (France) and Fedayi San (Switzerland).
Total concentration will be called for, not only by Letexier, but also the rest of his impressive referee team. “If you’re a goalkeeper in a match, you can make five world-class saves and win a lot of praise, but then in a moment’s inattention, you make a mistake and concede a goal in the 85th minute, and suddenly you’re mediocre in everyone’s eyes,” Letexier reflects.
“It’s the same for a referee. You can have a good match for 85 minutes, you’ve made good decisions – then you suddenly have a lapse in concentration, and all the good work is undone. It’s absolutely essential that you tune in fully from the first minute until the last.”
Away from the field, Letexier enjoys quality time with his family, and also continues to work on a part-time basis as a court bailiff. “It helps me keep a good life balance,” he says.
And with a promising career still ahead of him, what does the future hold for François Letexier? “The main objectives are to continue to make progress, develop as a referee and enjoy what I do,” he explains. “And if I’m considered good enough to take on important match assignments like the Super Cup match – then I’ll be extremely happy.”