HE’S feeling on top of the world and Poland referee Szymon Marciniak is excited about getting the opportunity of officiating in the FIFA World Cup final between Argentina and France at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Marciniak is holding his head high as he will be the first Polish to officiate a World Cup final, fulfilling a dream for the Pole who was forced to retire a year ago due to a heart condition.
The 41-year-old, who became a FIFA referee in 2011, was set to officiate in last year’s European Championship before being diagnosed with Tachycardia.
“I had a very difficult time for the last year-and-a-half. I had Tachycardia – it’s a heart illness. In the beginning, it was very difficult for me and I had to stop refereeing,” Marciniak told the media.
“I missed the UEFA European Championship, it was a terrible feeling. Now, life gives back to me and I cannot even stop smiling because it’s a great feeling,” Marciniak added.
At the near-90,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, reigning champions France face Lionel Messi’s high-flying Argentina. Marciniak has already refereed games between the two teams in Qatar.
He took charge in France’s 2-1 group stage win over Denmark where Kylian Mbappe scored twice before watching Messi lead Argentina to a 2-1 win over Australia in the last 16.
Marciniak is not the only Polish official who will be on the pitch, however. He will be assisted by compatriots Pawel Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz — all of whom worked together at the 2018 World Cup in Russia as well.
Poland’s Tomasz Kwiatkowski will be in his ear as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) while American Ismail Elfath — a two-times Major League Soccer Referee of the Year — will be the fourth official.
FIFA bosses who gave the thumbs-up for Marciniak say he evidently did enough to impress when he oversaw the group stage match between France and Denmark, as well as the last-16 game between Argentina and Australia.
He gave out five yellow cards, no red cards and no penalties in total across the two games.
CALM AND STRICT REF
“I’ve seen him a few times and I must say that he’s a calm and strict referee who doesn’t get carried away by the big-name players,” said award-winning Singapore coach Jita Singh, who is in Doha for the tournament.
“There have been a number of refereeing talking points in Qatar. But FIFA made a right choice but in an intensely-close final, you just got to keep fingers crossed.”
I wish Marciniak the very best and I must go on record to say that up to this stage in the tournament, he has managed to get through his games without sparking any major controversy.
Even in my view, it looks to be a wise referee appointment from FIFA.
* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.
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