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17 Dec, 2021 21:02

Top female football ref rejects sexism, idea women should stick to cooking

Top female football ref rejects sexism, idea women should stick to cooking

The referee who became the first woman to officiate a Ukrainian Premier League game and took charge of an England match earlier this year has spoken of the hurt she feels in the face of sexism.

When Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell's goal was ruled out for offside in a World Cup Qualifier in Andorra in October, Kharkiv-born Kateryna Monzul oversaw the decision as part of an all-women refereeing team.

Predictably, the goal was then allowed following a VAR check – and authoritative Monzul was widely credited with producing a strong performance in the middle as England eased to a 5-0 victory on their way to the 2022 finals in Qatar.

Now an established elite referee, Monzul is a pioneer: as well as becoming the first woman to take charge of a Three Lions men's match, she was at the center of the first all-female refereeing team to officiate in a senior men's international when San Marino played Gibraltar in November 2020.

That came four years after she was the first woman to referee in the Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) in her homeland.

"At the time when I started, in 2000, women's refereeing was a curiosity," Monzul has now reflected to Vacko Live via Tribuna.

"Now the UAF [Ukrainian Association of Football] is developing women's football and refereeing.

"In those days, I judged youth football, regional competitions – everything was done step by step.

"The fans have their own temperament, they just come to relax. When five or ten minutes pass, they no longer have thoughts about football. They begin to discuss: 'Who is refereeing – a man or a woman?'"

The interviewer is said to have asked Monzul whether she was offended by the suggestion that women should concentrate on cooking the traditional Ukrainian delicacy of borscht rather than refereeing.

"I try not to pay attention to it," she said, calling it "insulting". "I try to change my attitude towards this over time. I will sincerely say that, deep down in my soul, I am offended."

The high-pressure role has also brought other stresses. "When I [first] found out that I was assigned to [a] UPL match, it was unexpected," she confessed.

"I must have turned gray that week. I thought about it from morning to evening. All matches are important to me."