Mateu Lahoz’s big international bag
International refereeing has many names on its list and, nowadays, Spanish referees keep arriving stronger than ever and fighting for a place in the officiating Olympus. However, for this to happen, others have been working for years to open the path for them based on hard work, perseverance and good decisions on the field. Without a doubt, one of these predecessors is Valencian referee Mateu Lahoz, a Spanish classic in Europe who will be in charge of the next Champions League match.
Before this big date in European football that awaits him this May 29th in Estadio do Dragão in Oporto, in Laboratorio Hypermedia we wanted to look at his extensive career. Without a doubt, in his long and professional curriculum we find more than enough reasons to justify his election as the referee to officiate the Champions League final.
On March 12th, 1977, Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz came to the world at a small valencian village called Algimia de Alfara. Like most Spanish children, he started playing football as a hobby very soon. It is said that referees decide to choose this career because they can’t reach their dreams as football players. However, this was not the case for the Valencian.
In an interview with Movistar +, that newspaper Las Provincias collects, as to if he was a frustrated football player, the referee answered: “No, not at all. I could choose. In sub15 and sub17 I was in Valencia CF’s school. It was a great experience, I saw that there was people way better than me and I returned to Estivella”.
Beginnings in international refereeing
Mateu Lahoz has an extensive trajectory in elite football, both national and international level. He arrived at the maximum category of Spanish football in 2008/2009 season, being the only referee to be promoted from ‘Segunda’ to ‘Primera Division’ that year. His first match in that category was a Sevilla-Sporting de Gijon.
Just a few years later, when he had only been for two years in the maximum Spanish competition, FIFA sets its eyes in the Valencian and gave him the international referee badge. This way, on January 1st, 2011, he joined the international refereeing elite that the rest of his colleagues dream of. The first time Mateu was on the field as an international referee was February 8th of that same year to officiate a friendly game in sub21 category between England and Italy.
Since then, the referee continues his journey through Europe as one of the best valued Spanish referees for the rest of the continent. This is favoured by his refereeing style, as he talked about in an interview with Movistar +, closer to the English way, where they give priority to dialogue and to not stop the game so much to penalize certain actions. To this day, Mateu carries on his back 37 international matches.
An Olympian referee
Lahoz great work has opened him countless doors to the most important competitions worldwide. In 2016 he had the opportunity to officiate in the Olympic Games celebrated in Río, the most important event in sports at a global level. Mateu was chosen by UEFA as one of its five representatives to travel to Brazil.
In Río, of course with his assistants Pau Cebrian Devis and Roberto Diaz Perez by his side, the first match he was in charge of was a Brazil-South Africa that faced these two countries in the first round, belonging to Group A. The match played in Brasilia city at Mane Garrincha Stadium ended in a scoreless draw.
Facing this experience, the Valencian couldn’t hide his happiness and the honour that meant to be chosen for such an important date. “I’ll try to represent our federation because this is the culmination to many years of effort. There are no words to describe what is like to experience everything, from the notification of your choice to the preparation work, going through the final experience”, he told to ‘Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol’.
Expert on semifinals
The Valencian is already a familiar face in the most popular European championship, the Champions League. He has officiated many matches to teams from outside our borders, but there is a peculiarity that stands out as curious: he is a regular in Champions semifinals. The referee practically can say that he is an expert in this advanced stage of the competition, that of course always requires a higher level of concentration.
There are already three the times that Lahoz has been the judge in these matches. The first time he faced a semifinal was in 2017, when he refereed the match between Monaco and Juventus that ended with the classification of the Italian team. Two years later, in 2019, he was the referee in Tottenham-Ajax with a result of 0-1, and the last semifinal that he took charge of was last 2020, being in charge of the match between Bayern Munich and Olympique Lyonnais.
Wanda Metropolitano 2019: finally a final
Our country was coming from a very good run in Europe: our teams used to be in the advanced stages of the Champions, and after the good run of Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid, finals used to have a Spanish touch too. In 2019 fortune didn’t smile Spanish teams, but our presence was assured thanks to two factors: the Wanda Metropolitano and Mateu Lahoz.
The new stadium of the red-and-white team raised as the venue for the 2019 Champions League final, where Tottenham and Liverpool fought to win, as Spanish people call it, “La Orejona”. Mateu Lahoz had the chance to be present in this important event as a fourth official, a date that even thou he had many matches as international, slipped out of his hands. The match was refereed by the Slovenian Damir Skomina.
A few weeks after the grand final, the Valencian referee sat down in El Hormiguero to chat with Pablo Motos about his profession. There, in addition, he shared a funny anecdote of that day with Liverpool and Tottenham fans that included his son. While he was taking photos with Liverpool fans, his son showed up with his arm painted with rival’s name, Tottenham.
'Man in the middle'
Mateu Lahoz continues to carry out his profession nationally and internationally despite the situation caused by COVID-19. Same as the rest of the referees, in the stoppage caused by the pandemic he kept training and studying to go back in the best shape possible.
In addition to the matches that he officiates the weekends, we can see the Valencian in a new documental series created by the UEFA called Man in the Middle. This show has four episodes that follow different elite international referees, among which of course is Mateu Lahoz, in both his private and professional life during 18 months, also coinciding with the pandemic.
You can enjoy this unique vision of the life and work of a referee up close, which was released past November, in UEFA.tv for free. You only have to register and you will have access to the four episodes of this series that will make you learn more about this Valencian that with a very personal style has managed to establish himself as one of the kings in European refereeing.
Champions 2020/2021 Final
After many years of unconditional dedication to refereeing, finally the opportunity for the Valencian referee to fulfil every European referee’s dream arrived. This past May 12th, UEFA announced the referee team for the final in Oporto, giving the responsibility of officiating the final to Mateu.
In the Estadio Do Dragão, FC Porto headquarters, Mateu Lahoz is going to be accompanied by a completely Spanish team both on the field and VOR room, the exception made by the Polish referee Pawel Gil as VAR assistant. This way, Pau Cebrian Devis and Roberto Diaz Perez del Palomar are going to travel with him as assistants, Carlos del Cerro Grande as a fourth referee, Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez as VAR and Juan Martinez Munuera and Iñigo Prieto Lopez de Cerain as VAR assistants.
From Laboratorio Hipermedia we wish good luck to our Spanish representative in the Champions League Final, in one of the most important matches of his career and that surely he’ll keep forever in the trunk of memories that refereeing has given him.