'Big step' for U19 final referee Jovanović

Serbian referee Srdjan Jovanović intends to enjoy the occasion when he takes charge of Saturday's European U19 final – his biggest assignment to date.

UEFA European Under-19 Championship final referee Srdjan Jovanović
UEFA European Under-19 Championship final referee Srdjan Jovanović ©Sportsfile

Having been appointed to take charge of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final between Portugal and England in Gori on Saturday evening, Serbian referee Srdjan Jovanović has a clear ambition for the biggest match of his career to date – that the referees' team go unnoticed.

"The most important thing for a referee is that no one talks about us," said the 31-year-old from Belgrade, who will be accompanied by assistant referees Thibaud Nijssen (Belgium) and Yury Khomchanka (Belarus), and fourth official Ola Hobber Nilsen (Norway). "I hope no one will speak about us, and that people will talk about good football."

At the U19 finals, Jovanović has already taken charge of the group matches between hosts Georgia and Sweden, and Bulgaria and the Netherlands, and has relished the experience. "This tournament is amazingly organised by Georgia; I'm very proud to be a part of it," he told UEFA.com.

"It feels like a EURO for the senior teams – everything is similar. We have all the information and everything we need from UEFA without asking for it; the feedback and analysis from the referee observers is particularly useful, as it helps you improve with every game."

A key benefit is the opportunity to work with colleagues from across Europe, and oversee matches involving different countries. "It's very important for every referee to share knowledge so that we can all improve," Jovanović explained. "It's really good to learn from referees from Italy, Denmark, Norway, and for me to share my experiences with them."

Having started his refereeing career back in 2002, Jovanović has come a long way, earning his international badge two years ago. He is keen to pay tribute to the role of one high-profile Serbian referee in particular.

"I've learned a lot from Milorad Mažić, who's helped me very much in my career, particularly when I became a FIFA referee. He gives me advice, which is very useful to me; Milorad is a great professional. He's one of the best in the world at movement and body language, style of running – that's also important to refereeing, it's not just about decisions – and, of course, concentration, management of players, management of free-kicks. He helps me with everything that is important to a referee."

Jovanović now has the opportunity to put those lessons into practice at a major European occasion on Saturday. "This is my biggest success in my career so far, I'm very proud," he said. "It's a big step for me, the biggest I could take at this moment."

"I'm just 31, and it's a big opportunity for me, and I hope to do the best that I can. It's a huge match for the tournament, but it's also really important that there is not too much pressure.

"I'll prepare like I do for every match; we'll study the teams and prepare to be the best and enjoy the occasion – that's really very important for us."