With Hungarian football in a seemingly constant state of decline over the last three decades, Viktor Kassai, along with his officiating team, will be his nation's sole representatives at this summer's Euros. Gone are the days of the Magical Magyars, yet it seems that in Kassai, the central-European nation have produced a referee of genuine class.
Born in the north-western city of Tatabanya in 1975, it wasn't long before Kassai delved into the world of officiating. In June 1990, at only 14 years of age, he passed his refereeing exams and just three years later he was taking charge if matches in Hungary's fourth tier.
The young official impressed instantly and at the age of 23 became the youngest ever man to referee a game in his nation's top flight between Zalaegerszeg and BVSC. The sales manager was soon gaining international recognition and appeared as a fourth official at Euro 2008, before flying to the Olympics in Beijing later that summer where he refereed several fixtures, including the final between Argentina and Nigeria.
His reputation continued to flourish as he was chosen as an official for World Cup 2010 where, after impressing in the group stages, he was given the task of taking charge of the semi-final between eventual-champions Spain and Germany.
|VIKTOR KASSAI | Hungary
The 36-year-old handed his biggest game to date last May: the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United at Wembley. Speaking before the game to Uefa, the official, who is fluent in both English and German, expressed his delight.
"It's a very big honour for me and for my team, because it's very important that the referee is not alone in officiating the match. We have a team of seven officials and we'll do our best."
KASSAI'S SUPPORTING TEAM
|Assistant Ref 1
|Assistant Ref 2
|Assistant Ref 3
||Robert Kispal (Standby)|
His performance in the competition's showpiece event was typical of his style as he let the game flow yet made the players aware of his presence by distributing four cautions in total. Impressively, Kassai is the youngest man to referee the final of Europe's elite club competition to date, and continues to be recognised as an officiating trailblazer.
Still, the highly-rated referee is not immune from bouts of controversy, like so many of his counterparts. In November 2010, taking charge of Sporting Braga versus Arsenal in the Champions League group stages, Kassai refused to award what appeared to be a stonewall penalty to the Gunners with the match tied at 0-0. Instead, the official chose to caution the Gunners' Carlos Vela for a dive. The Portuguese side would go on to win 2-0 thanks to a late double from Matheus, with Arsene Wenger labelling Kassai's decision a "complete mystery."
The fact that an incident from nearly 18 months ago is the only real controversial moment in Kassai's refereeing career speaks volumes. His ability to command respect from players despite his tender years, combined with possessing the talent to aid a game's flow by refusing to hand out yellow cards as if they're going out of fashion, has made him very popular among his colleagues. And with his history for collecting milestones, would anyone be surprised to see him become the youngest man to referee a European Championship final this summer?