Despite there being no referee from India officiating in the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the silver lining for football fans is that Goa’s Maria Rebello has been selected to be one of the referee assessors for the tournament.
“There will be no referees from India officiating at the tournament,” Amlan Das of the Local Organising Committee told Gomantak Times. “Referee appointments are made by FIFA, and I am unable to say why no referee from India has been entrusted the job,” added Amlan.
For Maria, though, the appointment as referee assessor is another feather in her cap. Her romance with football, which began with her representing India as a player in 1998, eventually resulted in her refereeing the Asian Games in India in 2014 and being appointed referee assessor and instructor in 2018.
“I am thrilled that I have been able to be part of the FIFA World Cup. This is a dream come true for me. I know the responsibilities I have to shoulder but am confident of giving my best,” stated a happy Maria.
“I am not intimidated by the role handed to me, because we are used to this sort of work with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The job of an assessor is not just to find out what the weak points of a referee are but to pick the good aspects of refereeing as well. It helps improve the level of refereeing in any country,” believes Maria.
Maria is the second Goan woman to be part of the FIFA World Cup – the first being Uvena Fernandes from Canacona, who has refereed FIFA World Cups in the past.
Maria, who hails from Curtorim, started refereeing in 1999 and refereed her first international friendly in 2008 in Mumbai. “I have been fortunate to have been trained by AFC for this job and am confident of giving my 100 per cent,” claimed Maria, who during her prime playing days captained the Indian women’s team.
“Once the match is over, we go down, and after the referees have freshened up, we give them a briefing on how they managed the match. A report is then sent to FIFA,” explained Maria.
“I was attracted to football at a very young age. Few girls played then, and I had to play with boys in the village. That did not deter me as I liked the game. Football has always given me a rush, an excitement. There was nothing that could stop me from playing and continuing being with the game,” stated Maria, whilst explaining her bond.
“My family did not think that I would make it so far with the game nor did I think I would when I was young. Somehow, as I grew and excelled in my performance, and people started appreciating my game, I thought of carrying on. That is how I branched into refereeing because at that time there were few or hardly any avenues for women to be coaches,” said Maria.
“Finding a job related to football was difficult initially. However, once the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) started creating jobs for sportspeople who had excelled at the national and international level, matters brightened up,” opined Maria.
Maria, who works for the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) as a football coach, expressed satisfaction in receiving permission from her department to be part of the FIFA party. “The SAG director Gaude and my coaching director Bruno Coutinho have always encouraged me to pursue my career in refereeing, and it is because of their encouragement that I can be a referee assessor for the FIFA World Cup,” concluded Maria.