Referee Felix Brych ends his international career in 2021 with the Champions League game Real Madrid versus Internazionale. After a few unsuccesful tournaments, he announced his retirement after Euro 2020. “I was still missing a big, successful international tournament in my career. Now my career feels perfect”.
In this story some pinnacles of his outstanding career and a few lessons for other referees.
Champions League debut without headset
The first time hearing the Champions League hymn live in a stadium gave referee Felix Brych goosebumps. He shares his memories in the DFB referee magazine in 2020. After he was only 1.5 years on the FIFA list he whistled his first UCL game. He acknowledges that was very early and not even planned. As fellow countryman Wolfgang Stark wasn’t able to officiate, he had to replace him for Liverpool versus PSV Eindhoven. “I didn’t even have a headset”, he admits. “That was mandatory for international games then, but not yet in the Bundesliga. The Uefa couldn’t deliver one so quickly that fitted, so with special permission I could officiate without it.”
Referee Felix Brych building his reputation
A referee is important to build a reputation. Although Felix Brych got the opportunity to officiate in San Siro for 80.000 fans in a game against Real Madrid, nobody knew him. In the DFB Magazine he says that the press asks who that referee is. “It is important for a referee to develop a name and a certain reputation through convincing performances. That makes it easier for him, but it only succeeds over a period of several years and with constant performances.”
That’s something you can learn from as well. Even when officiating at amateur level or in a specific region. Make sure you perform well every game, build your own reputation.
Learn from your mistakes
And he knows: defeat is part of sport and has to be overcome. “Of course you make mistakes and have to digest disappointments. But it is precisely these that take you further in life and make you stronger. “
One of these mistakes was the phantom goal from Leverkusen against Hoffenheim. Shortly after that, Felix Brych is appointed for AC Milan versus Barcelona. He could barely sleep. “Even during the final training session in the stadium I felt the pressure that was on me.” Only after the whistle for the kick-off he was able to fully focus for the next 90 mins.
Gain experience and enjoy it
Enjoying refereeing is important for referees. So is gaining experience. When in school, Felix Brych really enjoyed being a person who could lead a game. Besides football, he also whistles basketball, handball and volleyball at his school. “I had a lot of fun communicating and interacting with people and making decisions”, he says.
That’s how his love for refereeing started. In all these years he gained a lot of experience and kept enjoying it. In 2021 Brych reached a big milestone. He joined the 300+ club for referees who have been appointed for 300 matches. The other referees are Wolfgang Stark and Markus Merk. He was very proud about this, as not many players either reach this number of games.
Most Champions League matches
Another record by Felix Brych. When he officiated the game between SSC Napoli and FC Barcelona in 2020 in the round of 16 he became the referee with most Uefa Champions League matches. DFB mentioned that with 57 matches he passed Danish top referee Kim Milton Nielson. His farewell Champions League match between Real Madrid and Internazionale is his 69th.
Until Euro 2020 I was missing a successful tournament
The German top referee is well-respected in international football, but during European and World Cups he didn’t reach far. A quarter final at Euro 2016 made that his best tournament so far. In comparison, he only officiated respectively 2 and 1 group stage games during the 2014 and 2018 world cup. Euro 2020 made it perfect, with 5 appointments, including a semi-final. “I was still missing a big, successful international tournament in my career. Now my career feels perfect”. That’s what Brych said in his farewell interview with German football magazine Kicker.
Watch and learn from others
One of the tips Felix Brych also shares with DFB: “I watch a lot of international games and look specifically at how players from certain teams are and how they react.”
So learn from each other, for example from Felix Brych in his final Champions League game. Share what you learned in the comments below or on the Instagram post.