Nielsen’s ultimate accolade came in 2004, when he took charge of the UEFA Champions League Final. Now, 10 years after retirement, the Great Dane talks to You Are The Ref about his career and the topical issues in the game…
I think the Swedish referee Mohammed Al-Hakim’s Facebook page is a good idea, and it is easy enough for me to understand Swedish! I do think it’s important that referees, outside the pitch, are seen as ‘normal’ people.
It is vital, however, that there are rules to ensure you don’t comment on your own or your colleagues’ matches. There have also been cases in Denmark of referees joking with fans before a game and this is unacceptable.
Personally I have a Facebook profile, which I don’t use much, merely to post what I am up to and to follow what my friends and relations are up to.
When people ask about my old pre-match routine, I tell them that the most important thing was to be focused before I entered the pitch. That means you need only one thing in your mind – to control the match. Any problems concerning your family or job are put to one side and you leave enough transport time to be in the stadium on time.
For European fixtures we needed to be at the venue 24 hours ahead of kick-off. That was not always easy with smaller Spanish towns such as La Coruna, which for us would mean changing in Brussels.
Relaxation was essential both the night before and on the matchday and I am lucky I was able to sleep in two to three-hour periods when I had to, such as after the delegates and police meeting on the morning of the match. You were not allowed to leave your hotel afterwards, so the only other alternatives were movies on your computer or a book!
Once, an assistant forgot his boots on a trip to the Ukraine and, while it was easy enough for us to find him boots in town, dealing with the banks in order to pay for them was a different story.
The closest I ever came to a problem myself came ahead of my biggest game up to that point: a Euro 96 appointment at Old Trafford between Germany and Russia.
Everything might have been fine had it not been for the bomb the day before, which tore apart Manchester’s Arndale Centre! You see in those days I was using one-month contact lenses, and I left them in the toilet of my hotel room and they were cleaned away.
While I knew it should be easy to get them in Manchester I decided to try and get them from home anyway, and the Danish delegation, led by Jesper Olsen, were scheduled to stay at our hotel ahead of the Denmark versus Croatia game in Sheffield on the same day as my match. Jesper agreed to help.
The problem came with the change of hotel for the delegation due to the bomb, so Jesper had to get the lenses to me from a different location out of town before getting himself to Sheffield.
Even though they were probably not essential for my eyesight back in those days, it was still a relief when I got the call from Jesper and he got the lenses to me 90 minutes before kick-off!
It stands out as by far the worst preparation of my career and goes to show how the best attempts to make everything comfortable can back-fire, but luckily the match went well – Germany won 3-0, while Denmark lost 3-0 to Croatia by the way!
So next time I hope to tell you how my routine for domestic league matches differed, how I briefed my assistants and why one day I found it difficult to get my mind out of my trousers!
Vi ses (see you soon)