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First women Medical Officers appointed in AFC men’s club competition


Doha: Dr. Zohreh Haratian and Dr. Bahar Hassanmirzaei from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Janis Ann Figueroa Espino-De Vera from the Philippines and Dr. Liesel Geertsema from New Zealand have joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) history books by becoming the first women Medical Officers to be appointed in an AFC men’s club competition.

The quartet are among nine Medical Officers including Doping Control Officers working behind the scenes to ensure the safety of players and officials at the AFC Champions League (East) in Doha, Qatar.

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Their appointments showcase the AFC’s continued commitment to promote and create equal opportunities for women in the Asian football workforce.

Last year, Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita alongside assistant referees Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi officiated in an AFC Cup match for the first time while Kim Se-in from Korea Republic, Nguyen Thanh Ha of Vietnam, Lau Cheuk Chi of Hong Kong and Kanya Keomany of Laos were selected as the first women match commissioners in the joint Asian Qualifiers.

Keomany was also appointed as the match commissioner in the 2019 AFC Cup Final, the first time a female was selected to take charge in a men’s Final.

Dr. Zohreh, who has been in the forefront battling the COVID-19 pandemic in her country, said: “There has been a revolution in the development of women's football since women referees took part in the AFC Cup last year. As a former futsal player, it has always been one of my dreams to participate in a men's tournament, and now this dream has come true. I am very happy to be one of the first lady doctors in a men's tournament.”

Dr. Bahar hopes to inspire more women to follow in their footsteps. “It is always an honour to be the first. To know that you are in a group who are the first but not the last. The AFC makes it possible to learn how to deal with different situations to become an expert and they continue to support women by putting them in charge in every important position.”

For Dr. Espino-De Vera, this is an opportunity to set an example for women working in sports medicine.

“This is a chance for women to show that we are capable in the field of Football Medicine. This paves the way for other women not just in Football Medicine, but in other fields as well. The AFC has shown that they recognise and appoint people based on merit.”

Meanwhile Dr. Geertsema, whose twin sister was also the first female team physician and female medical officer in the 2010 and 2018 FIFA World Cup, is relishing the opportunity to fulfil her responsibilities.

“In a year full of surprises, I am very grateful to have the opportunity of taking another step forward for women in football. I have been a medical officer in other sports events but never football. As a doctor, I find that working with male athletes is no different than working with female athletes. Athletes are highly motivated professionals who want to give their best and I am here to support them, regardless of age, race or gender.”

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