UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine

Referee Review

Viktor Kassai (Hungary)


By Adam Higgins

Chief Football Editor 

Age-  36             FIFA Referee since-  2003             Promoted to the Elite List-  2006          Hungarian NB1 referee since 1996

Season 2011-12:      Matches-  30        Yellow cards-  152          Red cards-  7          Penalties-  6

Best game of the season:  15th February 2012        UEFA Champions League Last 16 1st leg         AC Milan 4-0 Arsenal
                                     Venue: San Siro (Milan, Italy)

Our average rating from Euro 2012:  15/20 (7.5/10)

Euro 2012 statistics-   Matches-  2        Yellow cards-  12         Red cards-  0         Penalties-  0       Average cards per game-  6

Best game of the tournament:  Sunday 10th June 2012          Group C Game One           Spain 1-1 Italy

                                          PGE Arena (Gdansk)

Despite Hungarian football in a constant state of decline over the last thirty years, Viktor Kassai, the nation's sole representatives at this summer's European Championships, is a referee of genuine class produced in the heart of the country. The young official impressed instantly and at the age of 23 became the youngest ever man to referee a game in the Hungarian top-flight. The sales manager was soon gaining international recognition appearing as a fourth official at Euro 2008. His reputation has continued to flourish where he was chosen to officiate at the 2010 World Cup, given the task of taking charge of the semi-final between eventual-champions Spain and Germany. His performance in the competition's showpiece event was typical of his style as he let the game flow yet made the players aware of his presence by distributing four cautions in total. Impressively, Kassai is the youngest man to referee the final of Europe's elite club competition to date, and continues to be recognised as an officiating trailblazer. Still, the highly-rated referee is not immune from bouts of controversy, like so many of his counterparts. The fact that an incident in a Champions League match between Braga and Arsenal nearly 18 months ago is the only real controversial moment in Kassai's refereeing career speaks volumes for the way that the 36-year old has conducted himself throughout his early years and gained respect from all walks of football- particularly the players he controls on the pitch. His ability to command respect from players despite his tender years, combined with possessing the talent to aid a game's flow by refusing to hand out endless amounts of yellow and red cards, has made him very popular among his colleagues. Like a number of referees, Kassai took charge of just two matches at the tournament in the group stages however his two appointments involved some of the better teams at the tournament. His first match was the opening game in Group C in Poznan between reigning world and European champions Spain, who were looking to defend their title, against the 2006 World Cup winners Italy which would go on to be a repeat of the final showpiece in Kiev, where many expected him to be. It was a fairly straightforward match for the 2011 Champions League final referee to oversee with controversial incidents at a premium in a fairly low key game on the officiating side of the coin as a fast-flowing match was played out between two sides looking to kick start their Euro 2012 campaigns in a positive manner with both going for a good result. Having said that, the bookings did rack up with seven brandished in total. Kassai had to handle what many referees have struggled with in recent years- the mercurial and enigmatic Italy forward Mario Balotelli whom was the recipient of one of the yellow cards for persistent infringement. His next game produced one of the biggest talking points of the entire tournament and brought back the calls for goal-line technology as he took charge of England's final Group D game against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk with both teams needing to win to secure their passage to the quarter-final phase. After a quiet first half, the match was brought to life following the interval as Marko Devic, who was offside initially, tried a shot which managed to get past Joe Hart in goal for the Three Lions and had crossed the line before a heroic John Terry hooked it clear. Although Kassai took the wrap for the poor decision, the additional assistant referee behind the goal five yards away failed to spot the ball travelling a couple of inches over the goalline. This sparked fury and UEFA's decision to send the Hungarian officiating team may have been influenced by this incident which damaged the tournament's image. Certainly the match result hinged on the call as the Ukrainians bowed out of the tournament. With the number of milestones he has cracked and records broken so far, it was a huge surprise to many to see him leave the tournament prematurely after the group stages- not even kept on as a fourth official as the Hungarian flew back to his homeland early after UEFA announced that he was one of the four referees not chosen to lead the refereeing team any further in Poland and Ukraine with many predicting pre-tournament that he would be issued with a semi-final appointment or even the final itself. Overall, with the expectations so high for him to do well having progressed so rapidly, Kassai is another referee who will look back on the tournament with regret but has done enough to get him on the 2014 World Cup list and cannot be too downhearted.

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