Football referees play a vital role in a football match. The referees not only controls the flow of the match but also enforce the Laws of the Game. In recent times female football referees got the attention of everyone for their exceptional looks and the way they go about enforcing the rules of the game, raising eye brown of their counterparts (male).
Fernanda Colombo Uliana, Brazil could be the one standing tall among the other with her look and the way she goes about in controlling the game. India is no far away for this sport which has been ruled by the men until recently. And with the FIFA under-19 women football making on to the Indian soil, these Indian women are more serious and the increase in the number of these officials proves it all.
Kanika Barman has just cut into the elite group, while Uvena Fernandes is the senior-most, as these women have left no stone unturned as they roll into the man ruled Baston of the beautiful game, football, and they have set a benchmark, as they set off to undergo the fitness tests for male referees and conduct Hero I-League matches shortly.
"Our target for the women referees is to make them capable to undergo the men's fitness tests and to be able to officiate Hero I-League matches. They will also have to take the challenge head-on because it'll be more challenging physically as well as psychologically. I am confident that they have the quality to match our expectations," he stated, Ravishankar J, Referees Director, All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Currently, eight referees and 10 assistant referees are in the elite FIFA panel from India. Among them, Ranjita Devi Tekcham and Kanika Barman are enlisted amongst the referees whereas Riiohlang Dhar and Uvena Fernandes are in the category of assistant referees.
While Uvena is on the list since 2014, Riiohlang Dhar and Ranjita Devi were first enlisted in 2018. Kanika Barman, having been added to the elite list in 2020, is the latest entrant.
"Our women referees have done exceptionally well. Ranjita is rated as one of the top women match officials in Asia. With the Hero IWL coming in, they are getting more chances," he said. "About (Kanika) Barman, I am sure she could do a better job and comparatively, she would come out faster."
While Uvena Fernandes has already experienced officiating in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup previously, Ravishankar hopes that the remaining three will also get a taste of the same experience at the forthcoming FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup that will be hosted by India.
"We are hopeful the trio will also prove their worth in the U-17 Women’s World Cup in India next year. It is our aspiration and it will be a proud moment for us. We can proudly say Indian Football has come forward together along with #ShePower," he said.
The women qualified after going through several tests conducted by FIFA in Chennai on October 10. Having been named in the list, it will interest to see how the quartet’s opportunities in Indian football increase. Till date no Indian woman referee has taken charge of a game in the Indian Super League (ISL). The only woman to have taken charge of a top level men’s football game in the country is Maria Rebello in 2014 — an I-League encounter between Pune FC and Shillong Lajong.