The referees preparing for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ share a single aim: to deliver the best officiating performance ever seen at a Women’s World Cup. To help reach this target, 33 referees from all six confederations travelled to Doha to attend a seminar.
The programme awaiting the potential Women’s World Cup participants included numerous theory lessons in the classroom, as well as practical exercises in which the officials were confronted with match situations recreated by local players. The referees received direct feedback on their positioning and decision-making from instructors while still out on the pitch.
The theory sessions focused on topics such as reading the game, positioning, fitness and health. The candidates also watched video recordings of past matches before discussing technical and tactical aspects of the clips.
“Find the best position to make the best decision.”
Those are the words with which Kari Seitz, FIFA’s Senior Manager of Refereeing, summed up one of the most important elements of the FIFA Women’s Referees Seminar that is currently taking place in Doha. For the 33 participants, preparations are already underway for the biggest tournament in the women’s game: the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.
“The 2019 Women’s World Cup is only a year and few months away,” the former elite referee said.
“It’s a three-year project to prepare the referees for this competition. This seminar is one of the more important ones because in 2018 we have lots of competitions: the Algarve Cup and the U-20 and U-17 Women’s World Cups, where we can see these referees. We need to bring them together to ensure that we have uniformity and consistency across all the referees that may go to France in 2019.”
Seminars such as this typically take place once a year, with another held during the tournament itself.
“In this particular seminar we spend more time focusing on improving and developing general football understanding,” Seitz explained. “We also have much more discussions and analysis of situations so that we can improve their analytical skills as officials. When we get closer to the tournament it will be more focused on expectations. Now we want to have more of an opportunity for discussion and guidance.”
Topics in Doha:
- Achievements and expectations
- Improving football understanding
- Positioning (set pieces/penalty area), challenges and tactical fouls
- Positioning (anticipation/counterattacks), handball, match management
- Flexibility and injury prevention testing
Alongside the practical training sessions, decision-making processes and positioning, fitness is also a key focus of the course in Doha. “It is really intensive fitness testing,” said Seitz, who is the only referee – male or female – to have officiated at four Women’s World Cup editions.
“We’re looking for elite athletes now,” she continued. “It’s no longer good enough just to be active, you have to be an elite athlete. We also encourage the referees to reach higher, to do more than they have ever done and to work to be that elite athlete. The slogan is ‘Reach higher in 2018’.”
Massimo Busacca, Head of the FIFA Refereeing Department, was also on hand in Doha to add his own encouragement. “Congratulations on successfully completing this seminar,” he said. “We deal in facts, and you have proven just how hard you have worked. It is a moment to celebrate and be happy. My advice is that you enjoy yourselves tonight and get back to the hard work tomorrow.”
FIFA Referees’ Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina also emphasised the importance of continued commitment. “How do you stay at the top? Hard work – nothing more, nothing less. France 2019 is the goal you are aiming for. It is the World Cup, the most important competition there is,” said the Italian, who was named the world’s best referee for six successive years between 1998 and 2003.
“Kari said how important it is to be a role model, and that is absolutely vital for us,” Collina continued. “We need you to teach a new generation of referees, as this is essential for the future of our sport – and who is better equipped to help this new generation than you? You are the world’s best athletes. We trust you, your expertise and your knowledge. It is a great responsibility. Think about this on your journey home. It would be wonderful if each of you could help to develop a new referee, as this would mean our future is in good hands.”
Now it is up to the candidates to convince the members of the FIFA Referees’ Commission of their abilities.