UEFA Champions League final referee Nicola Rizzoli told UEFA.com he feels "very proud" to have been given Saturday's Wembley assignment, saying: "Finals are always special."
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Nicola Rizzoli will be unable to repeat his usual mantra ahead of Saturday's game between FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund. "Approach it as if it were the final of the UEFA Champions League," the Italian referee always says to himself before a match. This time, however, he really will be handling the top club fixture in world football.
The 41-year-old architect from Bologna is no stranger to the big occasion: he officiated at the inaugural UEFA Europa League final in 2010, an experience that he believes will help him at Wembley. "Absolutely, yes," he told UEFA.com. "Finals are always special."
UEFA.com: How does it feel to have been selected for such a prestigious match?
Nicola Rizzoli: I feel very proud, I am proud of what we have done and achieved on this long road to the final. It's the most important match at European level, and if I look back at the 24 years of my refereeing career, it's unbelievable to have made it to this point now.
UEFA.com: How do you prepare mentally for such an occasion?
Rizzoli: The same preparation applies for all matches, basically. I have always said, in all the matches I have refereed, even at youth level, that I have to approach it as if it were the final of the Champions League. And this coming Saturday I really will referee the Champions League final. It's motivation for me to prepare even better mentally.
UEFA.com: Can your experience of refereeing the 2010 UEFA Europa League final help at Wembley?
Rizzoli: Absolutely, yes. Finals are always special matches – they are not like other games, although they should be – but the experience you gain in a match like that helps you a lot, to understand how to handle the special tensions that are normal in a final.
UEFA.com: What will you do in order for you and your team to enjoy the experience?
Rizzoli: Trying to enjoy it is not always easy – concentrating makes you so careful about details, which can help you better evaluate certain situations, that you lose the real context. From when we come out of the tunnel until the moment we start the match, we must enjoy the spectacle and the event. We must look at the spectators, fans and supporters, all the beautiful things that football offers, and all the passion you can feel, because I'm sure that during the match we will be so focused and mindful of what is happening on the pitch.
UEFA.com: Two German teams are in the final. Have you talked about this to any of your German colleagues?
Rizzoli: Getting information is the most important thing when preparing for a match like this. I had already spoken to some German colleagues before it was known who would be refereeing the final, because I like to get information when I meet other officials. Of course, today we are lucky to be able to get all the information we want off the internet, so the teams have been studied and analysed.
UEFA.com: How important is it to know how the teams play tactically?
Rizzoli: It's fundamental, because it's the only way not to be taken by surprise. Knowing beforehand what could happen and having that information can help you anticipate certain situations. If you are taken by surprise in a situation then it can become difficult to judge in a correct way.
UEFA.com: What kind of match do you expect?
Rizzoli: It will be a game between two excellent teams who are both very physical, but at the same time involving coaches who make their sides play tactically very well. They each have coaches who know how to get the best out of their players, so I expect them to all play at the highest level, which will create a great spectacle.
UEFA.com: Does the fact it is at Wembley make the final more special?
Rizzoli: Wembley represents the history of football, even if it has been rebuilt and restructured. You breathe the history and the passion, just pure football. That is what I hope to feel when I'm in the dressing room and when we come out of the tunnel.
UEFA.com: And lastly, how would you like to be remembered after the final?
Rizzoli: I don't really want to be remembered. I hope they will just remember me when they read the name of the match referee. The stars are – and should be – the players. Don't remember me, that is better.