The Highlands Conference of the PNG Women’s National Soccer League has created history in the region by empowering women to not only play, but be in control of their own football league.
This was the first time in PNG that women are taking part in football at the highest level and the first time a game has been controlled by an all-female officiating crew.
Head of PNGFA Referee and FIFA Oceania Referee Instructor Jimmy Warai said it has been a long journey to develop the referees to a suitable standard.
“The journey started through PNGFA MA visitation program, talent identification and recruitment in Highlands region. There are now 30 active referees in Highlands Conference.”
The Highlands Conference is unique as they are the only PNG NSWL conference to have all women referees. Warai commended PNGFA President John Kapi Natto for his vision and drive to upskill referees, especially the encouragement and support for females. There are plans for Women’s Instructors, Referee and Assistant Referee Courses, as well as Fitness Instructors Course specifically for women, to make sure they can actively participate.
OFC women’s football manager Emma Evans is thrilled at the news.
“It is fantastic to see the commitment from PNGFA to develop female referees in the Highlands, and provide another pathway for women to learn, develop and perform alongside their peers,” she said.
“This is crucial for retaining women in the game, and will no doubt inspire many more women to give refereeing a go, who may one day end up representing their country and Oceania as a referee on the world stage”.
Former Welgris Highlander player and now match commissioner Moses Ungia added his support for Warai and PNGFA for their excellent job in getting more women involved in their own competition.
“It is a great start for football in the Highlands which was once dominated by rugby league,” Ungia said.