Olivier Marteel has been selected as the referee for this year’s Betfred World Championship final.
It will be the second time that the Belgian has taken charge of a Crucible final. He first oversaw snooker’s biggest match in 2015, when Stuart Bingham defeated Shaun Murphy 18-15 in a thrilling contest.
Marteel, 52, is one of the most experienced referees on the circuit, but away from the tour he has spent much of the last two years on the front line of the fight against coronavirus.
When the pandemic struck, Marteel put himself forward to move from his role in radiology and work as a triage nurse in a temporary A&E unit for Covid-19 in Veurne. It involved long hours of stifling heat, due to the cumbersome PPE which was required. However, Marteel immediately stepped up to the plate, with no questions asked.
Marteel said: “When I was asked to take on this role, I didn’t even have one second of doubt. Ever since I was a young child I wanted to work in medicine. I trained for three years and I have been working for 28 years. So when this came up, I jumped at it, even if there are some risks.”
“I’ve not done a lot of snooker in the last two years, but one thing I have done is a UK Championship final in Milton Keynes. Whenever I have been able to come over, I have felt privileged. It has been a good way to recharge my batteries. It helped me through some difficult times and allowed me to have some time for escapism.
“Two years ago, we were on the dark side. We didn’t know what to expect. Now that Covid has hopefully settled down a bit, things will be better. It will always stay in the world. However, I hope that now my role in snooker doesn’t have to be on the side, as it has been for two years. I hope we are back in business now and I will have more time for snooker.”
Marteel is fully aware of the pressures and responsibilities attached to officiating in snooker’s showpiece occasion, but takes great pride at being entrusted to take charge. Having already sampled the famous atmosphere generated in a World Championship final, he is brimming with excitement to be in the middle again this year.
“I really didn’t expect to have the world final. A lot of guys have worked very hard over the last two years and I haven’t been able to do what I wanted to do because of Covid. It came as a bit of a surprise, but it is a surprise I would like to have every year. I am thankful to the powers at be who decided it would be my final this year. Of course I’m looking forward to it. The Crucible will be full and the final will be an amazing atmosphere. I can’t wait for the reception.
“You have the best seat in the house as a referee. Whether it is qualifiers, ranking events or the world final. There is that pressure, because the whole world is looking at you. Yes, the 900 people in the Crucible are watching, but hundreds of millions are watching on the TV. However, they wouldn’t put you there if you couldn’t cope. It gives you a buzz. It makes you want to do your job even better, because it is a world final. I can’t wait.
“I remember the 2015 final very clearly, it could have gone the other way. It was an unbelievable match and one I will never forget. Hopefully the final this year will get to the same standard that I had seven years ago. It is a magical moment down at the table for such a special and important occasion. As a venue, the Crucible is unique. There is nowhere else that compares with it. Even talking about it now gives me goosebumps. Each time you arrive in Sheffield, it means so much and you get excited. To go back there every year is fantastic, hopefully I will be able to do it for a long time yet.”