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Who is István Kovács, the referee for AC Milan - Dortmund Champions League group stage?




Ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash between AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund in the iconic Italian city, we wanted to check out who will be in charge of keeping the players right, handing out bookings - potentially creating suspensions - and interacting with VAR to, hopefully, make the correct decisions. UEFA have designated referee István Kovács for the penultimate game for these teams in what has been dubbed, the Group of Death.

At the age of 39, Kovács has already officiated high-profile matches in the current Champions League season, including Newcastle versus Paris Saint-Germain in the same group, as well as Arsenal versus Sevilla. Additionally, he has previously served as the referee for two encounters involving Milan, with his most recent assignment being the quarter-final first leg against Napoli in the 2022/23 season.

István Kovács goes international

In May 2010, he earned his inaugural international assignment, presiding over a friendly clash between Italy and Northern Ireland at the Under-19 level. However, it wasn’t until three years later, in October 2012, that he officiated his first senior match, taking charge of the 2014 World Cup qualifier featuring Latvia and Liechtenstein.

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Throughout his career, Kovács has blown the whistle in four significant finals. His debut on this stage was the Cupa Romaniei final between Voluntari and Astra Giurgiu in May 2016. A few months later, he officiated the Supercupa Romaniei. In May 2021, he was honoured with the responsibility of overseeing the inaugural UEFA Conference League final, featuring Roma and Feyenoord. Additionally, Kovács served as the referee for the Arabian Gulf Cup final, a thrilling encounter in which Iraq secured a 3-2 victory over Oman.

While he was appointed for the 2022 World Cup, Kovács did not take on the role of the primary referee in any matches during the tournament. Instead, he served as the fourth official in a total of eight matches, contributing his officiating expertise to the prestigious event.

Milan - Dortmund: VAR and other assistants

Helping out Mr Kovács in Milan will be his two assistants, Vasile Florin Marinescu and Ovidiu Artene, both from Romania, and another compatriot Marcel Birsan as the fourth official. VAR is Pol van Boekel from the Netherlands, and he is assisted by the Romanian AVAR, Cătălin Popa.