Kirsi Heikkinen greeted her appointment as referee for tomorrow night's inaugural UEFA Women's Champions League final between Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez in Getafe with a mixture of surprise and delight – and the Finnish match official is now determined to enjoy the occasion.
Heikkinen, a 31-year-old teacher based in Pirkkala, in the south of Finland, and an international referee since 2005, will be accompanied by an all-Finnish team in assistant referees Tonja Paavola and Anu Jokela, and fourth official Lina Lehtovaara.
"You do your job as well as you can, and then if you get appointed it is always a great feeling," she told UEFA.com. "I must say that I've worked hard and have had some very good years in the game, so I am prepared for this match. You are always a bit surprised when you get something like this, but for people to appoint you to a great game like this then you must be ready."
As with many referees, Heikkinen took up the whistle in a somewhat roundabout manner in 1998. "At school, we had a big event about games and hobbies – it was like a big fair introducing the children to sports and pastimes – football, football refereeing, ice skating, all sorts of things," she said. "I ended up doing a laws of the game test and got all ten questions right. The football club called to say I'd got full marks and had won the first prize. They then told me there'd be a referees course for beginners and asked if I'd be interested in attending."
Refereeing the summit occasion in European women's club football will present few problems for Heikkinen, who has a wealth of big-match experience. "I have had many great experiences in refereeing," she said. "This year I had the Algarve Cup final between Germany and USA, which was a great experience. Last year, I officiated at the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO in Finland and took charge of the Germany-Norway semi-final, which was another great game.
"It's a great honour to be selected for any big event. When you have many good games and a lot of training behind you, then once you are selected you have to enjoy it. That's the only way your excellence will show. The qualities that make you a great referee will shine through."
Will Heikkinen be nervous? "I think it is good to have a few nerves but I wouldn't say I'll be nervous," she said. "You just have to make sure the whole package is right – all the mental preparation, the fusion between the referee team, concentration, physical fitness. But a small feeling in the stomach isn't a bad thing before a big game.
"You have to be in the zone during the whole game, but it's in those first few minutes that you get your concentration which then carries you through the match. If you get that right level of concentration in the first few minutes, it is easier to maintain your performance until the end."
Heikkinen is also hoping that everyone can make a telling contribution to the event. "I am looking forward to it on Thursday and hoping that the whole refereeing team has a great game together. Even if we have to make some decisions alone, we are a team and ultimately we make our decisions together.
"I am hoping for a fair contest between two good teams who want to play and show their quality. I hope it will be a good game and a good spectacle with flowing and attacking football."