Friday 18 August 2023, 13:15

American Tori Penso named as FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™️ final referee

  • Penso will take charge of Sunday's final between Spain and England in Sydney

  • First American to referee the final "melted" when name was revealed

  • "She is the best choice possible," says FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina

An elated and emotional Tori Penso stated there was "nothing better" after being appointed to referee the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™️ final between Spain and England in Sydney on Sunday. One of six Americans officiating at the tournament, Penso will become the first from the USA to take charge of the biggest game in women's football when a month of intense competition comes to a climax at Stadium Australia. "There’s nothing better than this moment I’m living right now," said Penso, who saw FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina reveal her name in front of her fellow tournament officials.

"To be in a room with many of my mentors, peers, colleagues, who have had an amazing tournament, it really was a very special moment for me. When [Pierluigi] Collina held up the jersey with the names of the teams in front of the whole group, I think all of us were salivating at the opportunity and the chance, and when he flipped that over to showcase my name, I melted." While her emotions may have gotten the better of her off the pitch, it has been Penso's cool-headed decision-making in the heat of the action on it that has helped earn her refereeing's ultimate honour. She officiated two group stage matches and a Round of 16 encounter before being appointed for the semi-final between co-hosts Australia and European champions England. Her performance in the highly-charged atmosphere at the same venue where she will now referee the final impressed.

Tori Penso gestures

"She is the best choice possible," said Mr. Collina, who can empathise with Penso having himself officiated the 2002 FIFA World Cup final. "She did very well during the entire competition, in particular, the semi-final last Wednesday. We know that it came across quite unexpectedly – her appointment, because she was appointed for the semi-final, but we are fully convinced that the best has to be the referee for the final, and she was the best." The FIFA Referees Committee Chairman also paid tribute to Australian referee Kate Jacewicz. "She is a great woman. She was at the Olympics last year. She was doing very well, and then she picked up an injury, which ruled her out. This year, here at the World Cup, the same thing happened a few days ago – another injury – and she is out (for the remainder of the tournament). She didn’t deserve this". Penso is aware that, in addition to achieving another personal milestone on Sunday, she is also contributing to a tournament that will be seen by future generations as a major landmark in the development of women's football. "To see 75,000 people in that semi-final match with Australia – and they were rallying behind the team – it is no doubt that they have changed football forever. It will never be the same after this tournament," said Penso, who will work with compatriots and assistant referees Kathryn Nesbitt and Brooke Mayo as well as fourth official Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan at the title-decider.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino with Tori Penso

"I think we are seeing the breaking point of something amazing. I’m not just happy for myself, but for my daughters to be able to see that scene is remarkable, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds." Penso's three young girls and her husband Chris, who is also a professional referee, will now get to feel the fervour for themselves. They will embark on the long journey from their home in the US to Australia to attend the game after receiving the happy news from the other side of the world. "After the announcement, I went to the back of the room to find a few moments for myself and I FaceTime’d my family, and told them about the exciting news," explained Penso. "I think my favourite line before I hung up, was when my middle child Jovie, who's just turned seven, said ‘Mummy, I’m so proud of you’. So, those words will ring clear in my ears for a long time."