We caught up with Viktor Kassai, former international referee and participant in the Executive Master for International Players (UEFA MIP) who shares his unique insights into the world of officiating and its impact on his life.
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Viktor Kassai's international journey in refereeing began in 2003, and over a little more than three decades, he left his indelible mark on the game worldwide. He officiated at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, oversaw the 2011 UEFA Champions League final and took part in multiple UEFA EUROs before hanging up his whistle in 2020.
Today, he's the driving force as the technical director for elite referees at the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB), a job he started after completing the UEFA MIP, a two-year master’s degree in football management offered by the UEFA Academy and two academic institutions: the Centre for Sports Law and Economics (CDES) at the University of Limoges and the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre at the University of London.
He explains the role of refereeing in his life, the importance of continuous education and what it takes to be an accomplished referee.
Why did you decide to become a referee?
My father was my role model, he was also a referee. I knew from him that this was a very nice career and a great job. He liked football very much; I liked it too. A refereeing career is a great option for those who don’t necessarily have the talent to play football, yet they can still be part of the game.
What did refereeing teach you over the years?
I think it's very important, especially for young people to learn how to work in a team, how to be part of an organisation like regional football associations. You find yourself with hundreds of referees, young, old, men, women, so plenty of colleagues with a lot of diversity. As a young referee, you learn how to deal with people, how to deal with different characters. It’s a very good school of life.
Do you have any advice for young referees who aspire to grow and develop in this field?
Learn. Especially at the beginning. At the start of your career, you need to have some patience to learn. Not just a couple of weeks or months, but many years.
Why did you decide to enrol in a programme like the UEFA MIP?
I took part in the UEFA MIP because at the end of my refereeing career, I realised that it was not enough to have a nice career as a referee. I needed to see a different aspect of football. If you are a referee manager or club manager for example, you need to have different knowledge, not only your specific background. I wanted to learn from others. Refereeing is just a very small part of the whole football scene.
How was it to share the classroom with players?
It was interesting because I had a different view from them. I brought the referee perspective, and they had their player's perspective, so we could discuss the same topic but from a different angle, which was very nice. It was good also for players to get a better understanding of refereeing and vice versa.
Are there some skills that you have as a referee that you could apply in the classroom?
Yes, the big majority of referees are very disciplined people. The preparation of referees often consists of attending long seminars, participating in lectures, so I am used to that. I think for players it was not so easy as they are used to training for games but not taking part in long meetings. For me, it was not a problem to be in the classroom and to learn in a disciplined manner.
And one final question, what's your most memorable match?
Maybe the most memorable match was the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley between Barcelona and Manchester United. I think anyone starting a referee career dreams about the Champions League final. I worked for over 20 years to achieve this, and it was just amazing to be in Wembley Stadium. That was the biggest memory for me as an active referee.
How do I become a referee?
UEFA has launched a new campaign, "Be a Referee!", which aims to increase knowledge about refereeing, highlight the importance of referees for the game and inspire young people start a career as a match official. The campaign is part of a wider programme through which UEFA will support the national associations in their recruitment activities aiming to recruit around 40,000 new referees per season.