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'Dream come true' for U17 final referee Eskås

Norwegian referee Espen Eskås described his selection to take charge of Sunday's UEFA European Under-17 Championship final in Dublin as "an amazing feeling".

U17 final referee Espen Eskås
U17 final referee Espen Eskås ©Sportsfile

When Espen Eskås leads the two teams out for the 2019 UEFA European Under-17 Championship final on Sunday, he expects it to be an emotional occasion for him, as well as for the players.

The Norwegian referee has been selected to officiate at the showpiece between the Netherlands and Italy at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin – and he admits it will be his career highlight.

"Of course it is," he told uefa.com. "It's amazing, you almost get goosebumps standing there, taking in the emotions and feelings. It's an amazing feeling; an almost out-of-body experience."

Once he blows the whistle to set the ball rolling, that emotion will make way for focus and concentration. Then, Eskås says his responsibility will be to ensure the rules are abided by, but more than that, he will be aiming to ensure that the players show respect for each other and the game.

To that end, he assesses his role as more of a pedagogical figure. "You need to educate the players," he said. "They have a lot of emotions and a lot of feelings, and it's important as a referee in a tournament like this to recognise these and not punish, but instead try to solve situations with management and communication.

"You need to have personality and be yourself, and that's one of the most important things: be yourself and highlight your own strengths. In this tournament, we have to show our personality and manage the players, be good in our communication and solving problems, and of course try to enjoy being a referee."

The referee team for the final - Riku Vihreävuori, Espen Eskås, Raimonds Tatriks, Trustin Farrugia Cann
The referee team for the final - Riku Vihreävuori, Espen Eskås, Raimonds Tatriks, Trustin Farrugia Cann©Sportsfile

That final point is a salient one. "When we arrive at the stadium for the final, we'll put our bags down, check our communication equipment, and then we will have a look around, smile and relax," he continued, consciously using the plural as he prepares for the privilege of officiating the final together with assistant referees Riku Vihreävuori (Finland) and Raimonds Tatriks (Latvia), as well as fourth official Trustin Farrugia Cann (Malta). "The main thing is to know I have my team-mates with me, and to let them know we are in this together, and that we manage to enjoy the moment."

It is a moment the young referee says he has dreamt of since being encouraged to take up refereeing from an early age.

"I was introduced to refereeing by a colleague of my father," Eskås said. "After two or three matches, you start to realise it is fun, and you get feedback that you have a talent for this, and you should go for it. One thing leads to another, and then you progress from refereeing youngsters to adults, and when you get new appointments, all the time you realise how good a feeling it is to be able to do this."

Eskås, 30, says seeing compatriots Rune Pedersen, Terje Hauge and Tom Henning Øvrebø officiating at the highest level gave him further belief not only that he could make it, but that he wanted to.

"When I started refereeing, these were at the top in Europe, and it was an inspiration to see them refereeing in the UEFA Champions League," Eskås continued.

"Maybe there are times when you think 'it's too difficult for me', but you overcome it, and it's an amazing feeling to be able to take part in football, especially at a youth final tournament like this where you see all the aspects of football; all the emotions, the feelings, the dreams and the ambitions.

"You have the same ambitions and dreams as a referee, and this is a dream come true."