Kim Milton Nielsen

Since my last column I have had interesting trips to both England and Iceland, the second of which I will tell you about next time.

The Youdan Trophy in August was an opportunity, not only for the Danish FA to send over two referees, but also for me to visit and address all of the referees who took part.

It turned out to be a real pleasure, especially in the bar afterwards, when those more shy among the referees were able to put their questions to me one-on-one.

Earlier at Halifax Hall I had given them an overview of my life in football, and in that spirit I will now conclude my look at the role of setting goals in my own career, having stopped last time just prior to the Euro 1996 tournament which was also held, of course, in England.

Maybe, on second thoughts, it is better to work backwards and cover the ten years from my retirement to that tournament, which I have discussed with YATR before.

Having always been determined to quit at the highest level possible, I came up with an idea when the Superliga committee called me after the Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal, my third and final Euros.

I suggested that, as I knew I would be too old to participate at the 2006 World Cup, given the cut-off age of 45, that for my remaining 18 months I would take the next generation of referees away on European assignments with me as my assistants, and they agreed.

I saw it as a practical way for me to mentor referees with less experience and in a way this replaced the cycle of targets which had served me so well since 1996, with a major tournament every two years to aim for.

The final matches I had coveted, for the Euros and World Cup, never came my way and nor did the European Cup Winners’ Cup, which was effectively abolished midway through my career and which I was less concerned about.

I was lucky enough, however, to aim for and achieve control of a Champions League Final, having refereed more Champions League fixtures than any other referee, as well as a Super Cup Final, UEFA Cup Final and the Intercontinental Cup Final in Tokyo between Boca Juniors and Bayern Munich in 2001.

Looking back, the best chance I had of refereeing a major final between nations came the year before, when a freak hamstring injury sustained in the first half of co-hosts Belgium versus Turkey ended my tournament.

I say freak because it was such a warm night, it was my first ever serious injury and my knowledge of hamstrings led me to believe they were only a problem when they were not warmed up enough! So there I sat, in the dressing room having been relieved in the middle by Gunter Benko and then as 4th official by Jose Garcia Aranda, and I knew what had been the perfect preparation lay in tatters.

Sure enough, the next day I was told by the referees’ committee that I was free to return home. After all that, it only took four weeks to recover and I was back in the middle for the start of the next season in August!

To sum up, I highly recommend choosing achievable goals and I found it valuable always to be pursuing the next target until I found I had no remaining target to pursue following Euro 2004.

Having told a journalist I would continue one more year because I did not want my last memory to be limping off in Brussels back in 2000, in the end I was able to referee for six more seasons.

So my final target was not only to prove, on a weekly basis, that I had not gone on too long, but also to pass my final fitness test as a Superliga referee before hanging up my whistle in December 2005.

In a way I surprised even myself by giving my domestic league my last six months like this, but I’ll always be glad I did.

Vi ses, Kim.