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Unique Europa League hat-trick for Seville final referee Vinčić


“I want to be the right referee for this match” – Slovenian referee Slavko Vinčić is determined to rise to the occasion in taking charge of Wednesday’s UEFA Europa League final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers FC in Seville.

Slavko Vinčić is taking part in his third UEFA Europa League final
Slavko Vinčić is taking part in his third UEFA Europa League final UEFA via Getty Images

Vinčić, a qualified telecommunications engineer from Maribor, achieves a special UEFA Europa League refereeing hat-trick in Andalusia’s regional capital this week.

The 42-year-old was fourth official at last year’s final between Villarreal and Manchester United in Gdańsk, and an additional assistant referee for the 2017 final between Ajax and Manchester United in Stockholm.

‘Sense of responsibility’

The father-of-two emphasises the honour he feels in handling an encounter of this magnitude. “I’m full of emotion, pride and happiness,” he says of his special assignment. “And I’m also aware of the great sense of responsibility.”

“Now,” he says, “it’s important to keep myself on solid ground, focus and prepare mentally and physically together with my team, so that we’re totally ready for the challenge of this final.”

‘Believing in my star above’

Encouraged by his uncle, who was an assistant referee, Vinčić took up refereeing at the age of 20. “I did play some football, but actually basketball was my first love at the time, I played more of that,” he recalls.

“At 18, I left high school and cut down sporting activities to do my studies. But after two years, I began feeling that something was missing. My uncle encouraged me to try refereeing to fill the gap and be active – and gradually I realised that this was the right decision!”

Slavko Vinčić has been an international referee since 2010
Slavko Vinčić has been an international referee since 2010Getty Images

“And then, slowly, I began to believe in my star above.” By 2007, Vinčić had moved confidently through the various levels to become a Slovenian top-flight referee, and the FIFA international badge followed in 2010. He was a member of the referee team at UEFA EURO 2020, and officiated at three matches, including the quarter-final between Belgium and Italy in Munich.

Step by step

As one of Europe’s group of top-quality match officials, Vinčić adopts a pragmatic approach to his chosen pathway. “I take things step by step, match by match, because it’s also the case that too many great expectations can sometimes lead to great disappointments.”

He firmly supports the view that referees must always be themselves in what they do. “Of course, you do look at other referees and how they handle things,” Vinčić says. “But we’re really all different people, from various environments and cultures. I definitely think that you have to be natural, rather than a ‘copycat’”

“You must be self-analytical as a referee – and self-confident and humble at the same time, you need to be a good manager of people, and have mental strength. I’m also fortunate to be able to switch off everything around me when a match starts.”

Team reward

Vinčić will be accompanied in Seville by assistant referees and fellow Slovenians Tomaž Klančnik and Andraž Kovačič, as well as fourth official Srđan Jovanović (Serbia). The video assistant referee (VAR) role has been assigned to Paulus van Boekel (Netherlands), and he will be aided by Jure Praprotnik (Slovenia) and Spaniards Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez and Roberto Diaz Perez del Palomar.

 Slavko Vinčić (centre) trains with assistants Tomaz Klančnik and Andraž Kovačič ahead of a UEFA EURO 2020 match
Slavko Vinčić (centre) trains with assistants Tomaz Klančnik and Andraž Kovačič ahead of a UEFA EURO 2020 matchUEFA via Getty Images

As with all of his colleagues in the higher echelons of European refereeing, Vinčić emphasises the absolute importance of teamwork, and considers Wednesday’s appointment as a reward for his team’s diligence and dedication, as well as a tribute to his colleagues’ many qualities and strengths.

“Refereeing is our passion, and we’ve worked hard and made sacrifices,” he reflects on his successful partnership with his assistants. “There’s a common feeling of pride, and we have all have a great trust in each other.”

Essential ‘homework’

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail – this much-used statement stands Vinčić in good stead. He hails the opportunity given to top referees to study teams, players and tactics before every assignment. With nine UEFA Champions League games from the play-offs under his belt this season, the chance to do ‘homework’ and know in advance what to expect is an essential part of his match ‘checklist’.

“I think’s it’s a great move,” he emphasises. “You’re ready in many ways to referee the match before it starts. Of course, circumstances change in a match, but if you’re sufficiently prepared, not only tactically, but also mentally and physically, you have a much greater chance of a successful game.”

Looking ahead

Away from football, Vinčić, who owns a company in the metal industry, organises his free time patiently. “My company takes up a lot of time, as do my refereeing duties, so I make sure as well that I manage to spend important quality time with my wife and children.”

When will the moment arrive when Vinčić fully and emphatically realises that he is about to take charge of one of Europe’s biggest club football occasions on Wednesday? “Difficult question – we will see!” he replies. “I think that one thing is certain…there will be emotions mixed in among the focus and concentration.”

Step by step…match by match – a careful vision of the future beyond this week’s big date in Seville. “This match is all that I’m thinking about at present,” Vinčić says. “I’ve tried to train my mind not to think too far ahead.” However, there can be no doubt that new and equally stimulating challenges will soon be presenting themselves to Slavko Vinčić along his distinguished refereeing road.