UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Who is Szymon Marciniak, the referee for Borussia Dortmund vs AC Milan in the Champions League?
Polish referee Marciniak has officiated some of soccer’s biggest matches in recent times and will oversee the Group F clash at Westfalenstadion.
The 2023-24 Champions League is well underway, with Group F, made up of Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United considered by many to be the tastiest-looking of the eight four-team sections. The first two of those clubs meet at Westfalenstadion (officially BVB Stadion Dortmund in UEFA competitions) on Wednesday, with a number of familiar faces to fans of US soccer set to feature, such as the hosts’ Gio Reyna, and Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah, who turn out for the Italians. However, many onlookers will also probably recognise a man who has a foot in neither camp: referee Szymon Marciniak.
2022 World Cup final: Messi, Mbappé and Marciniak
The 42-year-old has taken charge of two of the biggest matches in world soccer in the last year, starting with 2022 World Cup final. The clash between Argentina and France will live long in the memory for Kylian Mbappé's hat-trick and Lionel Messi winning the tournament in what may well have been his final attempt, but not particularly for any contentious decisions made by Marciniak. Like Mbappé and Messi, the Pole received plenty of plaudits for his performance at Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
Marciniak named “World’s Best Referee”
A few weeks later, Marciniak was named the “World’s Best Referee” by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), which meant it was only fitting that he should also be in the middle for the 2022-23 Champions League final, which saw Manchester City defeat Inter.
Why was Marciniak almost replaced as UCL final referee?
In the run-up to the match, however, there was some suggestion he could be replaced having been investigated by UEFA after it emerged he had spoken at a business event hosted by Slawomir Mentzen, one of the leaders of Confederation, a far-right political party in Poland. The party’s political slogan is: “We stand against Jews, gays, abortion, taxation and the European Union.”
Marciniak claimed he had been “completely unaware” of the links between the conference and Confederation, whose values UEFA “unequivocally reject”.
“I want to express my deepest apologies for my involvement and any distress or harm it may have caused,” Marciniak said in a statement. “Moving forward, I pledge to be more vigilant in scrutinising the events and organisations with which I associate myself. I am committed to learning from this experience and ensuring that such lapses in judgment do not occur in the future.”
Champions League experience
The whistler has taken charge of over 200 games in the Ekstraklasa, the Polish top division, since turning professional in 2006 and became a FIFA-listed referee at the age of 30 in 2011, the year in which he first officiated in the Europa League. He was given his first Champions League match in 2012 and was chosen for a major international tournament for the first time at Euro 2016.