MARK CLATTENBURG: Every single call Szymon Marciniak makes in the World Cup final will be scrutinised like never before… but he must take confidence from his performances in Qatar so far
- There has long been a debate that former footballers should become referees
- Now we have one taking charge of the 2022 World Cup final, Szymon Marciniak
- Marciniak was once a player in Poland and later transitioned into refereeing
There has long been a debate that former footballers should become referees. Now we have one taking charge of the 2022 World Cup final.
I know Szymon Marciniak. I acted as his fourth official at Euro 2016 for Iceland against Austria. I remember speaking to Pierluigi Collina’s deputy, Hugh Dallas, after that 2-1 win for Iceland. We agreed that Marciniak had a big future ahead of him.
Six years later, he’s got the biggest game there is – Argentina and France in the World Cup final.
Polish ref Szymon Marciniak will officiate the World Cup final between France and Argentina
Marciniak was once a player in his native Poland. The tale goes that he was shown a red card one day and he colourfully told the referee what he thought of the decision. The official responded: ‘If you think it is so easy, you try it.’ So he did! He trained to turn into a full-time referee.
Marciniak may have nerves ahead of this World Cup final. He’ll know that every single decision he makes will be scrutinised like never before and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a sleepless night – going over his preparation notes, thinking about his game plan, mulling over how he can let the match breathe.
But Marciniak can take pride in knowing that his performances in Qatar have taken him to this showdown at the Lusail Stadium. This wasn’t only knockout football for the competing countries, remember. It was the same for the referees. One major mistake and Marciniak would have been heading home.
Marciniak was responsible for officiating France’s 2-1 win over Denmark in the group stages and Argentina’s 2-1 victory against Australia in the Last 16
Marciniak may have nerves ahead of this World Cup final. He’ll know that every single decision he makes will be scrutinised like never before
But the 41-year-old oversaw Argentina’s 2-1 win over Australia, and France’s 2-1 win over Denmark, and impressed Collina and Co enough to get this gig.
How I discovered I would be refereeing the Euro 2016 final was via a Skype call with Collina. It wasn’t the best connection. The video kept cutting in and out. But then Collina confirmed the news: I’d be taking charge of Portugal v France in three days’ time.
I wasn’t too nervous because I’d already refereed the FA Cup final and Champions League finals in the previous months. I had that experience in my back pocket and felt confident that I could complete the hat-trick without any hiccups.
There were moths flying all around the Stade de France. Thousands of them. Apparently the stadium lights had been left on overnight, so the moths did what moths do and moved in.
The insect invasion aside, that Euro 2016 final went well. Me and my assistants, Simon Beck and Jake Collin, walked through a Portugal guard of honour at the end and Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed my head with both hands in celebration.
Marciniak used to be a player himself, he used to play football in his native Poland
Marciniak will hope he’s given an easy evening by Argentina and France’s players and, if he is forced into making any decisions, that he can use his experience to call them correctly.
It’s the biggest game of his career and once it’s all over, the relief will wash over him. I remember when I returned to the dressing room after overseeing the 2016 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, the sponsors Heineken had left us a crate of beer. It’s never tasted so good!
Once Marciniak and his assistants, Patel Sokolnicki and Tomas Listkiewicz, are back in the confines of their dressing room, I hope they can relax and congratulate each other on a great World Cup final without any regrets.