The referee teams at the UEFA Youth League finals are gathering vital experience for their careers – and are also being asked to play an educational role with the young players.
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While players taking part in the UEFA Youth League finals in Nyon are relishing the chance to show their paces on a major stage, the refereeing teams are also gleaning invaluable experience that will stand them in good stead for the future.
Friday's first semi-final between Chelsea and Anderlecht at Colovray Sports Centre was officiated by a Swedish quartet – referee Andreas Ekberg and assistants Fredrik Nilsson and Stefan Hallberg, with Bojan Pandžić acting as fourth official. The second semi-final bringing together Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain was handled by four officials from Italy: referee Davide Massa, assistants Fabiano Preti and Alberto Tegoni, and fourth official Marco Guida.
The German referee team selected for Monday's eagerly awaited final between Paris and Chelsea, which kicks off at 17.00CET, comprises referee Daniel Siebert, assistants Rafael Foltyn and Jan Seidel, and fourth official Christian Dingert.
All of the referee teams have shown potential which has earned them their assignments in Nyon. They already have match experience in other European competitions and take charge of games at domestic level, so the UEFA Youth League appointments represent another crucial step on their career pathways. Experienced former match officials are observing them at the UEFA Youth League matches and discuss the referees' performances with the officials after the match.
The vast majority of this year's UEFA Youth League officials have also gathered crucial experience and learned comprehensively about what is expected of them at the higher levels by attending courses at UEFA's impressive Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE), which plays a vital role in preparing referees for their duties. The CORE presence in Nyon on Friday and Monday is a tribute to the outstanding work being done to groom young referees.
While on a learning curve themselves, the referees are also being asked to take on the role of educators with the talented players they are overseeing on the field. The players in the UEFA Youth League are young footballers, so the referees must manage them and help prepare them for the future in learning UEFA's values such as respect for the referee and opponents.
Debriefing sessions are taking place with the referees, in which they look back over their seasons and identify areas where they can get better. Honesty and transparency are key to these discussions, as these are factors which will help the match officials move onwards and upwards.
The UEFA Youth League is the latest step in what the referee teams hope will be fulfilling and successful careers. UEFA is making sure that they are in the best possible hands by guiding them along the way as they strive to make their mark as men in the middle.