UEFA.com caught up with two of the match officials at the 2015 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Bulgaria, as well as UEFA refereeing officer Marc Batta.
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With a high-octane UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Bulgaria well under way, UEFA.com attended a training session for the competition's refereeing team while also catching up with UEFA refereeing officer Marc Batta and getting the views of up-and-coming match officials Roi Reinshreiber and Dumitru Muntean.
"This tournament poses a different challenge to other final tournaments because we have more teams, 16, so we have more matches," explained Batta, from the officials' training base at Hotel Sport Palace in Sliven. "The travelling distances are quite significant too – meaning the fitness coach's main job is recovery work, to make sure the guys are ready for their next matches. This tournament is giving the guys a taste of what a very professional competition is like. They have to watch their food, make sure they get enough rest and get the intensity of their training just right so they're in perfect condition once they take the field."
Making light of any feelings of fatigue was Moldovan referee Muntean, who is thoroughly enjoying his first final tournament: "If I think back now to when I was first starting out as a referee, I never thought that one day I'd be here, refereeing at a tournament like this – it's unbelievable. Being here has given me a great opportunity to work with referees from different countries, to discuss and hear other views on football and refereeing."
“The atmosphere with our colleagues is like we're friends from way back," chipped in Reinshreiber, from Israel. "The training over here is amazing too – the observers are teaching us how to be better referees. The seminars and the little tips we get from Marc and the other observers are really helpful when it comes to match situations."
And in terms of said match situations, what has Batta made of the competition thus far? "The level of fair play, the behaviour of the players and the people on the bench has been truly excellent. In 2008, UEFA decided that we would visit the teams before each competition to show them what to expect in terms of refereeing. This time was no different. We spoke to all 16 teams and the reaction has been fantastic,” continued the Marseille-born former man in the middle, who officiated at EURO '96 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
"It's the kind of atmosphere that makes refereeing enjoyable. The level of fair play being so high gives the referee the chance to focus completely on the game, with more freedom and without pressure, which helps them to do a good job," added Batta. "The referees have been so well looked after by the Bulgarian officials and the mood is great. They're all young referees hoping to have a good tournament and put in good performances and, so far, they have."