As England's Mark Clattenburg walks out with his team of officials at Stadio San Siro on Saturday, his advice and achievements can inspire a new generation of referees. Honoured to be taking charge of the UEFA Champions League showpiece match between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid just seven days after refereeing the FA Cup final at Wembley, he says his rise is evidence that the time invested in preparing for optimum performance on the pitch delivers results.
UEFA.com: How did you find out that you and your team would be in charge of the UEFA Champions League final?
Mark Clattenburg: I was on my way for the fortnightly gathering with the referees at St George's Park when I got the call from [UEFA's chief refereeing officer] Pierluigi Collina; when he calls you know it's important. It took a while for it to sink in – he had to spell it out a little bit for me.
UEFA.com: Did you aim to be refereeing in finals at the start of this season?
Clattenburg: At the start of each season we set ourselves goals that are achievable; the domestic cup final was certainly one. In the Champions League, the aim was to do as many games as possible as well as possible – after doing a semi-final, I really didn't expect to get the final as well, but obviously I'm very proud.
UEFA.com: What has been the key to success for you and your team this season?
Clattenburg: We have excellent support from UEFA's refereeing officers with great guidance as to how to improve performances on and off the field. I'm looking a lot at the finer detail of the matches now – at trends and tactics – and this shows that if you work hard, you can get excellent results.
UEFA.com: Have you watched the final from two years ago as part of your preparations?
Clattenburg: I've watched it two or three times so far and I've also spoken to Björn Kuipers [who refereed that match] about all the things that go around the final, to be as well prepared as possible. I've also made sure to watch both meetings between the clubs in the league this year as one of the coaches has changed since 2014, so that gives us as much information as possible to share with the team.
UEFA.com: The teams say that they prepare like any other game. Do you?
Clattenburg: We do and my job as the 'manager' of the refereeing team, if you like, is to make sure that everyone stays calm and that we support each other during the match. For all of us, it's a huge honour but now we want to make sure that the 90 minutes, or 120 minutes, goes as well as it possibly can.
UEFA.com: Howard Webb refereed this final six years ago. Do you feel that you, like him, can become a role model for young referees in England now?
Clattenburg: I hope so. It certainly shows that if you have the inspiration and follow your dreams, that you have the opportunity to do something special by refereeing a game in the most important club competition of all.