Szymon Marciniak will take centre stage in Istanbul next month when he oversees this season's Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.
However, the Pole's officiating future was once thrown into doubt after it emerged he had been diagnosed with a heart illness in 2021. The revelation forced Marciniak to miss the entirety of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, which he described as "a terrible feeling."
He's since made a full return to refereeing duties and was elected to oversee last year's World Cup final in Qatar. And the 42-year-old was recognised for his fine work after being named the 'World's Best Referee' for 2022 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).
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Having taken up his whistle for the biggest fixture in international football, Marciniak will now oversee his first Champions League decider at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium on June 10. But his health discovery in 2021 almost saw his career take a very different trajectory.
"I had a very difficult time for the last year-and-a-half. I had Tachycardia – it’s a heart illness," he told the official FIFA website in 2022. "In the beginning, it was very difficult for me and I had to stop refereeing.
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"I missed the UEFA European Championship, which for a referee, who is at their best age, it was a terrible feeling. Only I, and my team, know how difficult of a time it was for me. Now, life gives back to me and I cannot even stop smiling because it's a great feeling.”
Both City and Inter have already had matches officiated by Marciniak this season, with the Italians drawing on both occasions, away to Barcelona and Porto. City have far fonder memories of his work, meanwhile, after easing to a 4-0 win over Real Madrid in the semi-finals with Marciniak in charge.
Despite being his first Champions League final as the top official, it won't be his first taste of Europe's top club occasion. Marciniak served as fourth official in the 2018 decider when Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in Kyiv.
If the semi-final second leg against Real was anything to go by, City may find more joy when they face Inter next month with Marciniak on the pulse. Having missed his chance to take part in one of European football's showcase events two years ago, his Champions League comeback brings some well-deserved redemption.
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