English Premier League referee Michael Oliver, who will handle the FIFA U-17 World Cup final between Nigeria and Mali, is proud of his assignment.
Refereeing certainly runs in the family for Oliver.
His father Clive is a former professional referee, while his wife Lucy officiates in the FA Women’s Super League. Oliver rose to prominence in his home country as the youngest ever person to referee an English Premier League match, and his refereeing family have one more reason to feel proud after he was selected to be the man in charge of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 final, in his first FIFA tournament, aged 30.
“The main thing is my friends and family are proud of what we’ve achieved as a team generally, but also at this tournament,” Oliver told FIFA.com ahead of Sunday’s final. “My father told me to enjoy the occasion, do what you’ve done to get the appointment itself bu then don’t forget that it’s a very important game.”
Starting at such a young age – he took charge of first top flight match in England aged just 25 – he and his father worked in England’s professional leagues at the same time. In 2009 Clive refereed the fourth tier play-off final, and Michael took charge of the third tier play-off final the next day.
“He’s been a key influence on my career,” Oliver added in the FIFA.com feature. “That time we were both refereeing was a bit strange because we were competing against each other while he also had a great amount of knowledge to pass on, about players, teams and coaches.
“I’ve actually known Howard Webb for about 15 years because of my father.
“I spoke to him before coming out here about tournament life, what’s different and what things you go through. That’s been invaluable. I’ve spoken to him via text message ten or 12 times since I’ve been here and on the phone two or three times, just discussing games, situations in matches. I spoke to him after my appointment for the final was announced too.”
Oliver will be joined in the final by his compatriot assistant referees Stuart Burt and Gary Beswick and the English trio have said their time in Chile has been a positive experience.
“The first one for us, Honduras v Ecuador, was big because it was our first tournament, our first game,” Oliver said. “Then Mexico against Chile in the Round of 16. It was a warm day, a fast-paced game and when we got back to base camp in Santiago, people commented on the pace of the match and what a good game it was to watch. Both our games have gone well, hopefully we’ll continue that for the final.”
Tournament life has been a fresh new experience for Oliver. Away for a month, the intense day-to-day training, analysis and work cycle has been a change from life as a Premier League referee.
“Back home we’ve got sport scientists and it’s all monitored remotely, we go to a training camp every fortnight,” Oliver said. “Here we’ve trained almost every day. Our training every morning has been with players, match situations, realistic things that you’re actually going to come across. We’ve had four fitness instructors who have monitored our fitness, put us through sessions and they give us feedback every single day. We’ve been asked to fill in scores of how we feel, how we’ve slept and our recovery rate. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”