UEFA Women’s U-17 Euro Final 2013: Persson (SWE)

The UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship has provided an important daily learning curve for the match officials working at the final tournament in England.
Sara Persson is an international football referee and a mother of two – two very different roles which, as she recalls with a smile, once came together with amusing consequences. "There was one time I was angry with my son Lucas, who was five at the time. I sent him upstairs and the next thing he appeared with my whistle and he showed me a red card," she says with a smile. Fortunately Persson has had no need to use that red card at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, a tournament where the respect from the young players involved has been commendable and where UEFA's refereeing team have had the opportunity to gain some invaluable experience. "Being in a final tournament is a big difference," says Persson, whose highest level matches to date had come in qualifying rounds for both the UEFA Women's Champions League and UEFA women's under-age tournaments. "In the qualification rounds it is important but this is more intense," adds the 37-year-old. "My colleagues and the games have been really good. My last game was Scotland–France and they are really technical these girls – they are tough and fast. I am really satisfied, also because it's gone really well in terms of respect from the players." Persson, an animal welfare officer from Gothenburg, is speaking at the refereeing team's base camp for the tournament in Derby, a short distance from St George's Park where the eight competing squads have been based. A total of 16 match officials came to England for the tournament – six referees, eight assistant and two fourth officials – and Persson is one of two referees granted the honour of taking charge of a game on the last day of this tournament, either the final or play-off for third place.
Also on duty on Sunday will be assistant referee Mathilde Abildgaard from Denmark. The 26-year-old from Copenhagen postponed the completion of her MA thesis to be here and is delighted she did. Having attended a UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence course earlier this year, this has been another crucial step in her development. "We have been lucky to have very experienced observers," says Abildgaard, whose father Bo has served as a FIFA-standard assistant referee. "They have tried to teach us and give us good advice we can take into our next matches. We've also been lucky to be in good teams, reflecting together on how to do even better in the next matches. That has really helped me." For Katalin Török, another of the assistant referees staying until Sunday, working together with match officials from other countries – with "different personalities, different styles" – has been central to the learning experience. "Once we see the appointments we have time to prepare with our referee – we have pre-match discussion before the game so it is easier," explains the Budapest-based economist, 28. "We receive the same guidelines from the observers so it helps a lot to really look like a team and work as a team on the pitch."
What all three women have in common is they officiate both men's and women's matches back at home. "Back home I do most men's games and some of the top matches of the women’s league – three games for men and then one women," Persson explains. This leads to an insightful discussion on the difference between refereeing men and women. "If you argue with a woman she will remember for a long time; with men you'll just fight and forget about it," suggests Abildgaard. "In women's matches sometimes they remember the whole match if you make a small mistake." And do male players treat a woman referee differently? "For me I think I have some goodwill being a female," she adds, "but then again maybe I have the opposite when I have females!" One particular highlight of their stay was a surprise visit to the referees' hotel by Howard Webb, the English referee. "What a good surprise – it was a very big moment," adds Abildgaard. Happily for all three women, one more big moment awaits on Sunday. (Source: UEFA)


8 December 2013
Germany – Spain
Referee: Sara Persson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Mathilde Abildgaard (DEN)
Assistant Referee 2: Katalin Torok (HUN)
Fourth Official: Ana Minic (SRB)