Kolkata: For Esther Stabuli, who became the first woman referee in 16 years to officiate in a FIFA male competition, what counts at the end of the day is performance on the pitch.
Stabuli broke a 16-year-old jinx when she officiated in the Japan versus New Caledonia FIFA U-17 World Cup match in Kolkata.
A Swiss school teacher and a rising star in refereeing circles, Stabuli made a little bit of history alongside New Caledonia, who won their first-ever point at a FIFA event by eking out the 1-1 draw against Japan on 14 October.
"There is not a big difference in whether it was a male or female referee, it is just the performance that counts," Stabuli was quoted saying in the FIFA website.
"It was a match like any other one. Later on maybe there will be more emotions, or I will realise it was something special, but before I really tried to prepare like it was a normal match and do my best."
Sixteen years ago, Im Eunju from South Korea became the the first woman to officiate in a men's match at a FIFA tournament when she took charge of the U-17 World Cup match between France and USA at Trinidad and Tobago 2001.
Stabuli was showered with praise from both Japanese coach Yoshiro Moriyama and New Caledonia's Dominique Wacalie.
"It was really nice that they liked me as a referee, and that they just looked at me like a normal referee," Stabuli said.
It was part of a journey both for the veteran of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 in Canada and for FIFA's refereeing department, which has been working to train men's and women's referees in the same structure for quite sometime.
This joint preparation project began in 2016 as part of the quest by the FIFA referee committee.
The appointment of Stabuli and the inclusion of six other women referees at India, who worked as fourth officials, is a fresh and exciting highlight in that quest.
The referees came from every confederation: Ri Hyang Ok (South Korea), Gladys Lengwe (Zambia), Carol Anne Chenard (Canada), Claudia Umpierrez (Uruguay), Anna-Marie Keighley (New Zealand), Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine).
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Updated Date: Oct 17, 2017 22:32:49 IST