Wednesday 08 March 2023, 07:00

Tatiana Guzman, Nicaragua’s refereeing pioneer

  • After retiring as a player, Tatiana Guzman took up refereeing

  • The first woman to take charge of a men’s top-flight match in Nicaragua

  • One of six female Video Match Officials at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™

Female refereeing has made great strides in recent years, with more and more women being appointed to officiate in major tournaments around the world and to take charge of men’s matches. Female officials from countries both big and small are starting to make an impact on the game, among them Nicaraguan referee Tatiana Guzman. Her achievements are noteworthy to say the least. The first woman to referee a men’s first division match in Nicaragua, she is also the first Nicaraguan woman to take charge of the final if the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and has now become first referee from her country to be appointed to the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, as a video match official (VMO).

A keen sportswoman, Guzman has tried her hand at various things, from baseball, which she used to play in the streets as a girl, to judo and volleyball which she played at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, where she studied Environmental Quality. In the end, however, it was her talent for football that shone through, though she never thought she would end up pursuing a career as a referee. That all changed in 2010, when she saw an international referee officiating in Nicaragua. With it also being a World Cup year, her interest was further piqued. “I started to research the World Cup on the internet and I said to myself that I want to travel around the world and I want to be a referee,” said Guzman, who was talking from Montevideo, where she was attending the third FIFA referees’ preparation seminar for Australia & New Zealand 2023. “I could never have been in a senior team in soccer. I love football. I just fell in love with refereeing for the first time when I saw that referee from another country in a game. That was the reason. I was spontaneous, actually.” Guzman started out as an assistant referee and then became a referee before obtaining her FIFA qualification in 2014, at the age of 25. Since then she has broken down one barrier after another until the greatest achievement of her career to date: a place on the list of appointed match officials for Australia and New Zealand 2023, where she will be one of six VMOs.

Guzman is understandably elated to be the first woman from her country to officiate at the biggest tournament in the women’s game. “It’s just an amazing feeling, actually. I worked hard for this. It’s a great improvement for Nicaragua because we don’t even have a high level of football. I think, even in refereeing, this will be exciting for other girls and even for football teams, to know that they can be a part of this.” Her excitement was clear to see when she recalled seeing her name on the list of match officials for the Women’s World Cup. “I still can’t believe it,” she said. Although VAR is not yet in use in Nicaragua, Guzman has taken every training opportunity provided by Concacaf and FIFA since first sitting at a monitor, just after Russia 2018, including online sessions during the pandemic and practice sessions at home.

FIFAWWC Referees Seminar III Montevideo March 2023

Giving her views on the preparation FIFA is providing for the match officials who will be on duty at the Women’s World Cup later this year, she said: “This kind of seminar helped a lot because now we know the lines and criteria that FIFA wants, and this is good for training and to be prepared because, at the end of the day, we want to be excellent, and we want the game to be excellent. In the end, what we want is one team. The referees are one team and we need to be ready for that. This kind of seminar helps a lot to be prepared for the World Cup.” Refereeing has changed Guzman’s life and she wants to see more and more women making their way in the game, especially men’s football. After Australia & New Zealand 2023 her goal is to keep on improving, earn selection as a match official on the pitch at a men’s World Cup, and continue showing that hard work and a love for your career always bring rewards.