Champions League final referee: Who is controversial Pole Szymon Marciniak?

Amidst the electric atmosphere of the Champions League final, where giants clash and dreams hang in the balance, the focus will fall on the star-studded squads of Inter Milan and Manchester City. Beyond the dazzling skills of the players and the tactical prowess of Simone Inzaghi and Pep Guardiola, there is a figure whose decisions will sway the course of destiny—Szymon Marciniak.

On this momentous clash of footballing titans, all eyes turn to Marciniak at Atatürk Olympic Stadium, who will act as the vocal enforcer on the field. The 42-year-old is the embodiment of unwavering control and precision.

He was the anointed match official for the 2022 FIFA World Cup final between Argentina and France and now has the responsibility of officiating the affairs at the grandest occasion in world football.

Szymon Marciniak
Photo by Icon sport

Long after he blows the final whistle, critics will scrutinize his decisions, dissecting each moment of perceived injustice or perceived favouritism, irrespective of who comes out on top. However, to get context about how Marciniak's decision-making, join us as we delve into his career, tracing his rise through the ranks and how he solidified his standing amongst the elite referees of the beautiful game.

Marciniak's Career and Refereeing Style

Marciniak embarked on his journey as a soccer referee at a young age, stepping onto the field at the tender age of 21. In 2009, Marciniak earned the opportunity to officiate his first top Polish league match, marking a significant milestone in his career.

The Polish referee's talent did not go unnoticed, and in 2011, he was appointed as a FIFA referee, cementing his place among the world's top officials. Since then, he has officiated a multitude of important matches, accumulating a wealth of experience and showcasing his remarkable skills over his 14-year tenure as a referee.

In this period, he has officiated matches in prestigious tournaments and competitions, including the Europa League, UEFA Champions League, and the World Cup qualifiers. His expertise also extends to various leagues, including the Jupiler Pro League, 2. Bundesliga, FA Cup, League Cup, European Championship, and PKO Ekstraklasa.

He has also presided over significant events such as the 2018 UEFA Super Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup final. Marciniak also served as the fourth official during the 2018 final between Real Madrid and Liverpool and will be on the pitch for the upcoming 2023 Champions League final.

His refereeing style is characterized by his authoritative demeanour, unwavering composure, and a keen eye for detail. The 42-year-old is known for his excellent positioning and ability to read the game, possessing a remarkable understanding of the flow and nuances of football. The Plock native's calm and measured approach allows him to make crucial decisions with confidence, even in the most intense and high-pressure situations.

Controversies Surrounding Szymon Marciniak

Just before the most high-profile fixtures of his career, controversies surrounding Szymon actions on and off the field took centre stage. It raised question marks over his suitability to preside over these events but maintained his place.

One controversy occurred during the Arab Cup, which served as a precursor to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Marciniak found himself at the centre of attention while officiating a semi-final match between Qatar and Algeria.

At the end of normal time, he granted an additional 19 minutes of added time when the fourth official had put up the board for 9 minutes. This raised eyebrows given the fact no major time-consuming instances apart from a VAR check had taken place.

Speculation arose that the extra added time was given to allow Qatar to equalize. Although the Maroons did score to make it 1-1 in the 90+6 minute, Algeria ultimately secured a 2-1 victory through a penalty in the 90+16 minute.

Another controversy emerged as it was announced he will be officiating in the 2023 Champions League final. It was revealed that Marciniak had been connected to a far-right Polish event and was going to be a keynote speaker at it.

Marciniak's picture in full FIFA referee kit was featured on the Everest event's poster organized by Sławomir Mentzen, leader of Poland's Confederation party, known for his divisive views on Jews, gays, abortion, taxation, and the European Union.

UEFA initiated an inquiry, led by UEFA's Chief of Football, Zvonimir Boban, and Chief Refereeing Officer, Roberto Rosetti. Following the investigation, UEFA concluded that Marciniak would fulfil his duty as the referee for the highly anticipated Champions League final. The European governing body's decision came on the back of a lengthy apology by Marciniak.