Esther Staubli ends female referees’ long wait at FIFA U-17 World Cup, gives hope
Esther Staubli, who officiated in the Japan-New Caledonia FIFA U-17 World Cup match, became the first female referee in 16 years at the global youth competition.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 16, 2017 22:40 IST
Esther Staubli did what most referees do during the Japan-New Caledonia FIFA U-17 World Cup match on Saturday. She blew her whistle in case of a foul, kept a watchful eye over players and made sure impartiality reigns on field. Yet, in those ordinary looking actions, the Swiss lady achieved something extraordinary.
Staubli, in course of officiating the Group E match which ended in a draw, became the first female referee in 16 years at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The last time a woman officiated a FIFA U-17 match was South Korean Im Eun Ju at the 2001 Trinidad & Tobago edition.
The 38-year-old teacher in an agricultural school in Switzerland, Staubli, had earlier officiated in Women’s World Cup and Olympics matches, but officiating in a men’s match was a first for her.
After the match, Esther Staubli was nonchalant in saying that she did not feel any emotions during the match. “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,” she said.
She also made it clear that when it comes to referring, it’s doesn’t really matter if it’s a male or female.
“It was really nice that they liked me as a referee, and that they just looked at me like a normal referee. I think there is not a big difference in whether it was a male or female referee, it is just the performance that counts,” she said.
Dominique Wacalie, New Caledonia coach, appreciated her efforts and said she showed the world that there was no difference between a male and a female referee.
“[Staubli] did a great job and we have nothing to criticise. I think it is good for the football in general. She helped the teams to play well. All the players respected her, so there was no difference to a man. I hope this is not the last time we see this,” Wacalie said.
Apart from Staubli, there were six other women referees at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 who worked as fourth officials. The referees came from different confederations: Ri Hyang Ok (North Korea), Gladys Lengwe (Zambia), Carol Anne Chenard (Canada), Claudia Umpierrez (Uruguay), Anna-Marie Keighley (New Zealand), Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine).
Currently, FIFA’s Refereeing Department is training male and female referees in the same structure for some time.
This project began in 2016 as an initiative to ‘improve the quality of officiating at FIFA events.’