On 27 January 2017, long-serving former assistant referee Igor Šramka passed away at the age of 57. “His decision during the Euro 2000 semi-final between France and Portugal forever changed the way people considered the role of assistant referee”, said Jozef Marko, long-time member of the UEFA Referees Committee, shortly after Šramka had made that game-changing decision in Brussels. Portugal defender Abel Xavier conceded a penalty for handball when the score was 1-1 in the 27th minute of extra time. The Slovakian assistant saw the incident and sent a signal to the referee, Austria’s Günter Benkö. After their consultation, Benkö awarded a penalty to France. The Portuguese protested, of course, but Šramka was confident about his decision. “I was convinced it was a penalty and there was no reason to step back”. Zidane scored from the penalty spot and France made it to the final and went on to lift the trophy as European champions. Šramka’s decision has gone down in the history of football. After seeing a replay of the crucial moment, the head of the Portuguese delegation visited him in the referees’ dressing room and with a handshake accepted the accuracy of the decision.
The brave heart of a great man, whose respect for the truth and the rules affected that match and the future role of the assistant referee, stopped beating on 27 January following a heart attack on 23 January 2017. Doctors, including his friend and fellow assistant referee Roman Slyško, fought for three days to save his life. But it was not to be.
Šramka, together with Luboš Michel and Martin Balko, formed a fantastic refereeing trio at the beginning of the new millennium, by when Šramka was already an experienced assistant referee. He officiated in five matches at Euro 2000, including the semi-final, four matches at the 2002 World Cup, including the Brazil v Turkey semi-final, and at the Confederations Cup in 2001. He and his countrymen were also among the Euro 2004 referee teams. In the UEFA Champions League, he officiated in 18 matches, and the Slovakian trio also oversaw the 2003 UEFA Cup final between FC Porto and Celtic FC. In addition to football, he enjoyed bowling, and was a member of the executive committee of the Slovakian Bowling Federation. Igor Šramka was a true professional, fully dedicated and committed to his job. His sudden death has shocked and saddened the Slovakian football family, who can take some comfort from the belief that he is overseeing the game from up above.
Source: UEFA Direct