“The whole experience was like a dream come true. I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure it was real – you can’t beat that feeling of representing your country on the biggest stage.”
Meet Lee Barron, the 40-year-old Sheffielder who recently made history as the first Englishman to umpire in a World Cup indoor hockey final.
The Sheffield University Bankers Hockey Club referee was selected by the World Cup committee after superb umpiring in eight previous matches during the tournament, and oversaw the enthralling men’s encounter between Holland and Austria in Leipzig, Germany.
Lee, who is ranked in the world’s top 10 list for indoor hockey officials, admitted to referee the final had been a target from the outset: “You always have some expectations and goals going to a tournament and mine was to umpire on the final day,” he said.
“The bronze medal match would have been great, but not the one I’d come for.
“So to stand there with such a great group of umpires and have your name called out to umpire the Final of the World Cup is just something else.
“My colleague for the final was Paweł Linkowski from Poland, who has also had a long career - even longer than mine. And you could see the shock on our faces. It was such an emotional moment for both of us. Two grown men crying is never good but who cares when a moment like that comes along?”
Despite the hosts not being represented in the final, a fine display was put on by Holland and Austria with the Netherlands coming out on top after a thrilling 3-2 victory.
The National League umpire had a hectic start to the game and Lee, from Oughtibridge, added: “It was a thrilling start. I was thrown straight in to making decisions. It was amazing to be part of such a brilliant game and the atmosphere inside the stadium, especially at the end was electric.
“There really was nothing to pick between the two sides and I really didn’t know who was going to win the match.
“It was really challenging umpiring at the end because Austria won two late penalty corners, and were playing with a kicking back formation [no goalkeeper] so it was breathtaking stuff.
“But ultimately Holland came out on top because both comers were courageously charged down by brilliant Netherlands shot-stopper Laurens Goedegeburre, who was named goalkeeper of the tournament.”
Lee, who also umpired the 2014 Asian Indoor final in Taipei, is already looking to the future as he is aiming to be adjudicator at the next World Cup in four years’ time.
“Internationally there is a retirement age of 47 and in theory I could have two World Cups in me if the dates work out,” said the former Sheffield Bankers player.
“I will be trying my utmost to make it to the next one because there is no greater pleasure than being able to represent Sheffield and my country on the biggest stage.”