Thursday 26 January 2023, 23:00

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ match officials fine tune preparations in Doha

  • The first of three preparatory seminars for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ match officials is taking place this week in Doha

  • The “Road to Australia & New Zealand” project started back in 2020

  • Representatives from Europe are the first to come together, with two further seminars planned in the next month.

‘A rigorous and focused preparation.’ Those were the words of FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina earlier this month when announcing the 33 female referees, 55 female assistant referees and 19 video match officials (VMO) selected to form 'FIFA Team One' for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand™. This week, the Qatari capital of Doha has been the setting for European match officials, the first of three preparatory seminars. On the opening evening, the FIFA President Gianni Infantino visited the group to look ahead to the showpiece event later this year. The elite match officials from Asia (AFC), Africa (CAF) and Oceania (OFC) will also travel to Doha next week, with those from the Concacaf and CONMEBOL confederations concluding the seminars in Montevideo, at the end of February.

FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 - Referee Seminar I - Doha

“I think these seminars are brilliant because you get to come together as a group. You come here and you get the exposure to work with VAR, being on the training field in the morning, practicing things, learning from other referees,” said Rebecca Welch. The English official – a relative late starter to refereeing after qualifying at the age of 27 - became the first woman to referee a men's Championship match on Saturday 21 January, and is now preparing for her first FIFA World Cup.

“Every minute you’re here, you’re learning” continued Welch. “They’re long days but that’s what we’re here for. We’ve got a physio team; we’ve got technical instructors. So, it’s a big opportunity to come and learn. Although it’s intense for the four days, as referees, we love it and that’s why we’re doing it.”

The "Road to Australia and New Zealand" project initially kicked off in 2020 with 170 candidate match officials. The road saw some unforeseen bumps when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but FIFA’s women’s refereeing programme was able to pivot, maintaining a high-level of preparation, as Kari Seitz, FIFA’s Head of Women Refereeing, explained pre-seminar. “With critical time lost due to the pandemic, we developed some new programmes to accelerate our referee development, such as our very effective Tracking & Support programme, where each referee candidate was assigned a FIFA coach who provided feedback on their matches each month. This programme will continue to be critical in the final phase of preparation for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

From the selected referees, we expect a rigorous and focused preparation for a competition that FIFA and its President hold in the highest of regards.

Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee

Kateryna Monzul from Ukraine began her career in refereeing in 2002, experiencing a number of career highlights to date. Her personal preparations for Australia and New Zealand at one stage saw her leave home due to the onset of war, and she was quick to pay tribute to her colleagues around the world. “Now I have two families: I have my family at home, and also my refereeing family. I remember when the war started in Ukraine, it was a huge shock for me. I didn’t know what I would do. But, when I travelled from Ukraine, I received huge support from the refereeing family – and I would like to thank everyone that helped me. It came at the most crucial moment for me.” Looking ahead to this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, Kateryna likened her preparation to that of a machine. “Your system has to work. If a single detail doesn't work, you need to re-work the whole system. You have to be physically, mentally and psychologically prepared.”

For those in Doha, the programme has included practical training sessions, strength and agility tests, VAR simulations and theory sessions. In addition, real match scenes are analysed with the help of video recordings, with no stone left unturned in the preparations. Away from Doha, the officials will continue to showcase their skills and use those matches to prepare themselves mentally, physically, and technically. Anticipation for the FIFA Women's World Cup, which will feature 32 teams for the first time, and has already seen over 500,000 tickets sold, is growing daily. Not only for the players and teams that have already qualified, but also for the match officials.