CHENNAI: Uvena Fernandes is a believer. She feels there is a right time for everything and progress will only happen slowly. In 2016, Uvena became the first Indian woman to officiate at a FIFA event — the U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan. This year, she will be officiating as an assistant referee in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup to be held in France from August 5-24.
But that's not all. If everything falls in place, next year, she might be making another trip to the 'City of Lights' to make her already luminous life a little more brighter. "I am a candidate in contention for the senior women's World Cup next year. There are certain criteria that need to be fulfilled. I hope that I can maintain my fitness and stay in the best possible shape if something comes up," Uvena told Express on Friday.
These are testing times for international football referees. There have been plenty of occasions this year — the recent El Clasico and the Champions League semifinals between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich being the most high-profile ones — when a wrong call or decisions taken by the officials have impacted the result of the game. Referees being surrounded by players in disbelief have become a common sight.
There have also been instances when some players tried to manipulate the decision making. In such a tense situation, there are chances of error in judgement. But for Uvena, she has never been in situations like those. "I haven't had the time to follow European matches regularly. But I try to watch whenever I find time. For me, personally, things have been smooth so far. But I know that it won't be easy for us all the time. We have to be alert always. We give our best and manual errors happen from time to time," the 37-year-old said.
The native of Palolem in Goa has officiated in many men's games in India. But she has not yet got a chance to do that at the highest level. Women referees are quietly making their way into the men's game across the world, although not all are not in favour of it. There was a famous incident when Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray questioned if assistant referee, Sian Massey, knew what the off-side rule was during a Premier League fixture a few seasons back. The sexist remark put the Scot under a lot of pressure. Since then, debates on whether they can handle the pressure of the men's game have received mixed responses.
Uvena feels that the discrimination should end once and for all. "Whether it's the men's or the women's game, you need to run around a lot. It's all the same and when people tell me that women referees can't keep up with the pressure of the men's game, it sounds bizarre. The U-17 World Cup in India had a female referee. Did anything go wrong? You need to start living in the present and be equal."