Szymon Marciniak only came to the referee after seeing a red card in his playing days

Szymon Marciniak admits he only got into refereeing after being shown a red card for abusing an official during his playing days and explains how he recovered from a heart condition to take charge of the 2022 World Cup final

  • Szymon Marciniak says he only got into refereeing because he was once sent off
  • Marciniak, 44, reacted poorly at a young age after being attacked from behind
  • Marciniak will officiate the World Cup final between Argentina and France
  • The star referee was on his way to act during Euro 2020 but has had to retire
  • He suffered from a heart condition called tachycardia and had to retire

Szymon Marciniak, who officiates tonight’s World Cup final, says he only came to the referee because he was once sent off for abusing an official during his own playing days.

The 41-year-old Pole remembers reacting badly when he was young after being attacked from behind. “According to my coaches, I was quite a promising player, but I was sent off once when I was fouled from behind. I started arguing and wanted a red card for the opponent, but the referee didn’t agree with me.

Hew said, “Your objection, yellow card, Marciniak. And I was like, ‘What are you saying to me?’ I was fouled from behind and my Achilles tendon almost broke and you give me a yellow card. So I started again and he gave me the second yellow card. Then I got angry and said, ‘You’re the worst referee I’ve ever seen.’ Of course I used worse words than that.

Szymon Marciniak (above) says he only came to the referee because he was sent off once during his own playing days for abusing an official

Szymon Marciniak (above) says he only came to the referee because he was sent off once during his own playing days for abusing an official

“We talked after the game and he said to me, ‘If you think this is easy work, you can try it. You’ll see.’ And I thought why not? I have to prove that he is really poor and I will be better. So I immediately went to a course.’

Marciniak quickly rose through the ranks and was in charge when Lionel Messi’s Barcelona were defeated 4-0 at Paris St Germain in 2017.

As one of UEFA’s top referees, he was on course to serve at Euro 2020 but had to pull out due to illness and a heart condition. “I’ve had a very difficult time over the last year and a half. I had tachycardia, a heart disease. In the beginning it was very difficult for me and I had to stop.

Marciniak will referee the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France

Marciniak will referee the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France

Marciniak officiated in France's 2-1 win over Denmark in the group stage and Argentina's 2-1 win over Australia in the round of 16

Marciniak officiated in France’s 2-1 win over Denmark in the group stage and Argentina’s 2-1 win over Australia in the round of 16

“I missed the European Championship, which is a terrible feeling for a referee in his prime. But sometimes I think life takes something away from us to give you double happiness back. I am a great example of this because I deeply regret it. Only me and my team know how difficult that was for me. But now life has given it back to me and I can’t stop smiling because it’s a great feeling.”

With his shaved head and piercing gaze, he resembles Pierluigi Collin, and his friends joke that Italy’s most famous Italian referee is Marciniak’s godfather. “I met Collina, who was then head of UEFA, and my friends said, ‘Haha, you look similar – he’s like your godfather.’

“I’m proud to make him proud because I know he believed me from the start. He was the second observer to watch me in the second [round of qualifying in the] Champions League games, so I know that making these people very happy is also very important to me.”

The 41-year-old Pole (centre) remembers reacting badly when he was young after being attacked from behind

The 41-year-old Pole (centre) remembers reacting badly when he was young after being attacked from behind

One of his assistants has a family connection to Argentina in a World Cup final – Tomasz Listkiewicz’s father was a linesman when West Germany defeated Diego Maradona in a tumultuous 1990 final that saw two Argentines sent off.

“That makes us proud, because Tomasz’s father was once a great international referee and linesman in the grand finals. So after 22 years we still have one.’

And he expects a fast-paced and intense game this time, with both Argentina and France pumped with energy for the first-ever World Cup in the middle of winter. “Now the players are fresh, they want to win. You see the fire in her eyes.

“We expect a very fast game; This is the final, no one wants to concede a goal, so maybe I expect to be a bit careful at the beginning. But they have such big names, such big stars, anything can happen. So concentration, concentration, more concentration. There can be no relaxation, not even for a second. That’s my job for the game.”

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Maureen Mackey

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