The road to the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 is gradually getting under way, both for the teams aiming to qualify and for the female referees. Potential candidates for the biggest tournament in the women's game, to be held in Canada, are meeting this week in Zurich for the first time, with 40 women from 33 different countries taking part in the week-long referees' seminar.
"This is an incredibly important seminar", Sonia Denoncourt, Head of Women's Referees at FIFA, explained to FIFA.com. "It is the first real step towards choosing candidates for the Women's World Cup 2015 in Canada. The event is two-and-a-half years away and we are starting off with a large group of female referees. We'll be testing them and then selecting the best at the end". The 40 candidates were officially welcomed by FIFA President Joseph Blatter “I would like to congratulate you on being selected for the Referees project for the World Cup in Canada in 2015”, said Blatter. “The preparations ahead of the tournament are incredibly important”. The FIFA President thanked the various referees for their work they had put in on behalf of football so far and wished them all the very best in their preparations for Canada 2015: “You dedicate a significant part of your lives to football, a game of self-discipline and respect, and one that represents a battle where fair play must reign. And you are the ones who oversee these games”. Some tough hours lie in store for the candidates. After extensive medical tests to begin with, the programme will then concentrate on fitness, training sessions, medical information, theoretical aspects, and match analysis over the following days.
"The seminar consists of three important parts, namely the medical, technical and fitness aspects", Denoncourt continued. The technical aspect is all about knowing the rules and regulations, and practical exercises and video analysis of matches will be used to train and test the women on how to use this knowledge correctly. "We have technical meetings in which we analyse games", Denoncourt added, "and we also simulate games and get the referees to make decisions". The referees also get an insight into subjects such as physical fitness and diet, as well as how to avoid injuries, all under the expert guidance of Denoncourt. "Fitness is particularly important", she stressed, "and testing it shows us a lot. We can see how well they prepare, how seriously they take it and how they deal with injuries, all of which are critical". The mental aspect is also covered with as much detail as the technical side. There is enormous pressure on the referees due to their roles and responsibilities, and devising individual strategies to develop the mental strength should help the participants to deal with challenging situations. "The main quality of a good referee is being technically adept enough to make critical decisions, and that's what we're aiming for", continued Denocourt. "Their performances are based on their ability to manage a game and make decisions, and to do this, they need to be healthy, stable and mentally well prepared. It's a complete package", she added. The candidates will have plenty of time to convince the FIFA Refereeing Department and the members of the Referees Committee of their skills before the final selection is made for the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015, being held from 6 June – 5 July. Between now and then, there are three major women's football tournaments on the calendar, namely the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2014 in Costa Rica, the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2014 in Canada and the Women's Youth Olympic Football Tournament, also being held in 2014, in Nanjing.