FIFA referees train in Qatar in preparation for Women's World Cup
At Aspire Zone, on a crisp February evening, the referee shows a red card but decides to confirm her decision via video analysis. After watching a replay on the screen, she changes her mind and cancels the card. The referee signals to the player that he can remain on the pitch and he responds with a relieved smile.
This scene is currently being repeated daily during a seminar in Doha for the 27 referees and 48 assistants selected for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™. The officials – all women – are refereeing the Al Kass U17 International Cup, which runs until 15 February.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy sponsors the tournament, which is organised by the Qatar Football Association and Aspire Zone Foundation, and features 12 U17 youth teams from some of the world's most famous clubs, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Kari Seits, FIFA's Senior Manager of Refereeing, explained the programme that has gathered women from 42 countries.
She said: "This is a 'super-seminar' because, in addition to the on-field training, classroom training and fitness checks, we also have the opportunity to referee the Al Kass tournament and fine-tune the referees' skills."
Seits continued: "In terms of facilities we couldn't ask for anything better. On the road to France, the objective is for referees to continue to practice fundamental skills, including football understanding, fitness and both the theory and the laws of the game for consistency."
Seits also highlighted the fact officials have had the chance to test the video assistant referee (VAR).
"We know it was very successful in Russia 2018 and we know it's a great tool to ensure that the results are very fair, which is the goal of the referee to begin with," said Seits.
Among the participants of this 'super-seminar' is Lucila Venegas, a referee from Mexico. "This tournament and seminar are very different to anything we've done until now because we're already implementing the technology," she said.
An assistant referee from Mexico, Mayte Sánchez, who has officiated at three World Cups, very eloquently described what VAR could mean for female refereeing. She said: "The key is that we're looking for justice in sport – that's why we see VAR technology as a second opportunity for the referee."
Neuza Wes Back, an assistant referee from Brazil, like some of her colleagues, also officiates in the men's first division in her home country. She's hoping to return to Qatar for the men's World Cup in 2022.
"Officiating in male or female matches shouldn't be based on gender but on the referee's physical and technical skills. Nonetheless, refereeing at Qatar 2022 is a dream for us."
The FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 will be played from 7 June to 7 July.
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