Taking charge of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final on Friday, Anastasios Sidiropoulos is all set for the most "important game" of his career. The 33-year-old native of Rhodes has been refereeing for 12 years, and has been in the middle for Greek Super League games since 2009. After relishing his time in Slovakia, Sidiropoulos is hoping this is the first step on the road to UEFA Champions League, UEFA EURO and FIFA World Cup finals.
UEFA.com: Are you looking forward to Friday's final?
Anastasios Sidiropoulos: I am looking forward to kick-off. It is a great feeling knowing that in a few hours I will be the referee of the European U17 final.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to you to take charge of the showpiece?
Sidiropoulos: It is an honour to be selected. It feels good because you know that all the hard work you put in to get here finally pays off and you can reap the rewards.
UEFA.com: Tell us about the team who will be supporting you during the final.
Sidiropoulos: I will have the full support of my team, made up of assistant referees Dejan Kostadinov from Macedonia and Richard Storey from Northern Ireland, as well as my fourth official Ivaylo Stoyanov from Bulgaria. During the tournament we have had excellent cooperation on and off the field and all of them are experienced international officials, who have been officiating at the top level in their own countries.
UEFA.com: Is this an important step in your career?
Sidiropoulos: It is another step forward. It is definitely the most important game in my refereeing career so far, and an opportunity to prove to my mentors that I can successfully take such an important match. The fact that I am the referee for the final is not only an honour for me, but also for the Hellenic Football Federation, my family and to all the people who support me in every step of my refereeing career.
UEFA.com: What has it been like to be part of the refereeing team at this competition?
Sidiropoulos: It has been an excellent experience. I met people from 15 different countries and I learned a lot from my colleagues. We really had a very good team in this tournament and it is a privilege that I have had the chance to cooperate with them.
UEFA.com: What are your aspirations as a referee?
Sidiropoulos: My ambition is to take part in major tournaments and competitions such as the Champions League and the European finals.
UEFA.com: Who are your heroes, both footballing and refereeing?
Sidiropoulos: I admire skillful football players with the best sporting behaviour and respect for the game. My refereeing model is a former elite referee and now member of UEFA's Referees' Committee, Kyros Vassaras, who has taken charge of many important competitions such as the Champions League, World Cup, EUROs and Olympic Games. He always helps referees and he always says his aim is to help Greek referees achieve even more than he did.
UEFA.com: What is your method and philosophy for refereeing games at U17 level?
Sidiropoulos: At this level you must be not only a referee but also an educator to these young players. They play with passion and they are physically strong so sometimes they overreact. This is the right time to intervene, with calmness and having good knowledge of the psychology of young players, and help them understand that football is just a game and that we have to respect each other.
UEFA.com: Tell us about the support which is provided by UEFA?
Sidiropoulos: I honestly cannot believe how lucky we have been with the support of the three UEFA Referees' Committee members, Kyros Vassaras, Jozef Marko and Nikolai Levnikov in this final tournament. They advise and communicate through technical instruction meetings and practical training sessions throughout the tournament, and have been invaluable and will help us for our forward development.
UEFA.com: How has the experience of Slovakia been?
Sidiropoulos: What an experience! It is such a beautiful country. The hospitality has been excellent end everybody has been very friendly to us all. Also, the organisation has been amazing and it is obvious that football is such a passionate sport in this country as attendances have been fantastic.
The full appointment:
17 May 2013, 18:00 CET
Štadión MŠK Žilina, Zilina (SVK)
Italy - Russia
Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos (GRE)
Assistant Referee 1: Dejan Kostadinov (MKD)
Assistant Referee 2: Richard Storey (NIR)
4th Official: Ivaylo Stoyanov (BUL)
UEFA Referee Observer: Jozef Marko (SVK)