FIFA U-17 WC: ‘It was a big honour’, says Esther Staubli

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The FIFA U-17 World Cup group match between Japan and New Caledonia at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata on October 14 saw history made, with Switzerland’s Esther Staubli becoming the first female referee to officiate at India’s showpiece.

Staubli, a schoolteacher by profession, was the “woman in the middle”, making a little bit of history alongside the New Caledonians, who won their first-ever point at a FIFA event in the 1-1 draw.

Staubli is one of seven women referees invited to the ongoing tournament, where all the male and female match officials, nominated by FIFA’s Referees Committee, have completed a host of activities together in a series of seminars, including theoretical sessions in the classroom and practical sessions on the field of play.

Speaking about her experience, the 37-year-old said, “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.”

“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 added.

The Swiss had supervised at the UEFA women’s Euro 2017 barely two months ago.

She has also officiated as referee at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, UEFA Women’s Champions League Final 2015 and Olympic Football Tournament in Rio 2016.