Asia's women match officials see bright future
Chonburi: The FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 marked a historic edition, with record audiences and innovations like the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system with match officials set to play a larger role in future tournaments.
Kari Seitz, Women’s World Cup project leader for FIFA, shares her insights on the role of women referees in an exclusive interview with the-AFC.com.
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You took on a new role leading the referee team for the first time, what were the main takeaways and challenges?
The results on the field proved that the increased investment for "The Road to France 2019" project paid off – we achieved the best referee performances ever at a Women’s World Cup.
Despite the winning formula, more will need to be done as in four years’ time the quality of football will also rise and the tournament itself will expand by eight teams. We must continue to focus on quality refereeing and growing the pool of candidates as priorities.
The road to the Women’s World Cup 2023 has started. Based on the lessons learned from the past edition, will the selection and preparation process be different for the officials?
Being part of the project requires enormous commitment and sacrifice, including passing fitness tests, written and video tests, and showing their all in each competition. Only the best will be selected in 2023.
The high expectations of performance will be the same for 2023, but FIFA plans to offer more tools for remote coaching and support. We also expect the candidate’s own associations to take an even more active role in the development of their referees.
You are here at the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship to observe and identify AFC referees with the potential be among the preselected cast for 2023. How is your experience working with Asian referees so far?
My experience so far is very positive at the #AFCU19W. The referees' support team is excellent and the officials are dedicated to doing their best. All are willing to work hard and be prepared to achieve their goals. It is always a pleasure to work the AFC team.
What does it take for an official to be considered among the top of the world?
To be an excellent referee, one must excel in fitness, football understanding and consistency in applying and interpreting the Laws of the Game. There is also a “special” ingredient; a combination of personality, passion and commitment.
We are seeing more examples of women referees appointed to men competitions. What are the challenges female officials face in contrast to their male counterparts?
Women officials are often overlooked for important and difficult games which are critical for referee development and would allow them to move to the next level. Another challenge is that most resources are focused on men competitions and officials.
It is great to see barriers broken in the past 12 months. From AFC having a women trio in the AFC Cup to women appointed to top leagues around the world and important competitions like the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil or the UEFA Super Cup. It has opened minds and doors for future opportunities.
For the first time, the AFC had a female crew in charge of an AFC Cup match. How do you regard the organisation’s commitment to developing women officials?
The AFC is also the first Confederation to have a manager dedicated to women referees. The historic engagement of Pannipar Kamnueng speaks loudly of AFC’s commitment to women refereeing development.
Her leadership, in cooperation with the Director of Referees, Shamsul Maidin, will bring more and greater achievements for women referees in Asia.
You have vast experience on and off the field of play and are a role model for aspiring officials. What would you say to young girls out there dreaming of becoming a referee?
I hope that in the future more young girls dream about becoming a referee, especially former players. Refereeing gives them an opportunity to continue to be “in the middle” of the game they love.
While not always easy, football refereeing is deeply rewarding. My advice is to stay strong and do their best so they can accomplish great things and, above all, always reach higher.
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