They say Referees are often born, not made. For Uvena Fernandes, the first ever Indian Woman Referee selected to officiate in a FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled to be played in Jordan from September 30 to October 21, 2016, it was a fusion of both.
Recollecting her baby steps in the footballing world Uvena recollects: “I represented the Indian Women’s National Team in International Tournaments and after that I chose Refereeing.”
“My career as a football player helped me to understand Refereeing better. It worked hand-in-hand for me, but I had to work hard in my quest to become a better Referee,” Uvena says in one breath.
Acting as an Assistant Referee, Uvena has officiated in four 2014 Asian Games Women’s Football matches in Incheon, Korea Republic including the semi-final tie between former World Champions Japan and Vietnam. Not only that, Fernandes has also officiated as an Assistant Referee in the Subroto Cup 2015 and Women’s Competitions all across India.
“It all started in 2003”, Uvena informs nostalgically. “That is when I took my baby steps in Refereeing and I had no idea that I would come this far in the profession.”
“Officiating in the Asian Games was a big challenge for as you don’t get to officiate at such a level regularly. It taught me how to compose myself and keep myself calm even in tough situations,” she states.
“I am glad if I can inspire girls to take up Refereeing,” she pronounces. “Women’s Refereeing in India is on the rise and AIFF works hard to extend the horizons of Women’s Refereeing. Many girls aspire to become Referees these days. This was rare back in my days. So obviously there is a huge transition.”
“The AIFF has been working hard to develop Indian Referees. There are a lot of developmental activities. I need to thank them for all the help.”
How challenging has Refereeing as a Woman been? You inquire.
“It is challenging as it requires hard work to excel as a Referee. But once you do that everybody respects you. The fact that you are a Woman Referee adds more gloss to the respect.”
“My family has been an inspiration to me and whenever the going got tough, I cajoled my family to motivate me. They are the reason I am where I am today,” she adds.
With Uvena becoming the first Indian Woman Referee selected for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, Women’s Football in general and Women’s Refereeing has found a beacon of inspiration.
In the process she became the second Indian Referee after Komaleeswaran Shankar to get a chance to officiate in any World Cup. Shankar had officiated as an Assistant Referee in the 2002 FIFA World Cup simultaneously held in Korea and Japan.
You inquire what message would Uvena like to give aspiring Referees. “Work hard and try to become a better Referee every day. Perform your duty to the best of your ability, and never be scared to give a decision.”
(Report & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)