Ella de Vries will visit Canada soon for a World Cup as assistant referee. In an interview with Dutch Referee Blog she talks about the upcoming tournament and starting as a women in the football world. Not everyone was so happy with a lady refereeing a men’s game. “But those situations gave me strength and faith for later challenges in my career”, says Ella de Vries.
Congratulations with your appointment for the 2015 World Cup. How does that feel?
Thank you very much. I am very happy and proud to have been selected for such a great event. It is a great honour. Of course one hopes to be selected, but it is not until you see your name on the list that there is a sense of relief. That sense of relief is very short lived though as we must continue to work hard and be completely prepared for when we attend the World Cup in Canada. I was at work when I received my official email from FIFA. I am a fulltime mathematics teacher at Stedelijk Lyceum Topsport in Wilrijk.
What do you expect from refereeing at the World Cup in Canada?
I expect we will see some great football matches. Everyone will watch this event. It will be the first time we will be working with goal-line technology. I am looking forward to be part of this fantastic tournament. And as always when I step out on the field, I will try to make it my best performance.
What did you do to get appointed?
All of us officials have to make a lot of sacrifices along the way to get to this point whether it has been work, family, social etc. We have been involved in other FIFA tournaments over the past few years which led to our selection. We know each other well and it feels like being a part of a team. We invest a lot of free time in football, both technical sessions and fitness trainings. Leading up to the event, the training intensity even increased. I train daily, sometimes even twice a day. The players will be in top condition and so we need to be right there with them and keep up. But in the end it will be our performances on the pitch that are the most important. So it is one game at a time and focus on doing our best at that particular moment.
How did you get involved in refereeing?
I started refereeing when I was 18 years old. Even as a little kid I was interested in football. Whenever there was a ball I wanted to kick it around and play with it. My parents didn’t want me to play football. They thought this wasn’t a sport for girls. But when they saw the advertisement to become a referee, they both said maybe this could be something for me. I started the course and began going out to do matches. Over time, my confidence grew and I started to work higher level matches which has now lead me to here. When I started I never dreamt of being selected for the World Cup.
What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?
To be part of this beautiful game is fantastic. As a referee we try our best to make sure the game is played by the Laws. We don’t often make friends with the players when out on the field. One side usually doesn’t like us as much depending on who is winning and who is losing. We are not perfect out there and we sometimes make mistakes. Like in normal life there are moments where you feel very good and other moments where it could be better. Working at the highest level of football as a woman is not always easy. I have thought about quitting this hobby on some occasions but the thought has never stayed long. I am fortunate to have the support of my family and a lot of friends who are there for me in good, and more importantly, the bad times.
What’s the hardest challenge/problem you faced during your career? And how did you solve it?
During my career there were several challenges. I am sure all referees around the world face some problems and challenges during their career. Being a woman didn’t make things easier. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of prejudices within sport. When I started as a referee, there weren’t that many women referees around. I arrived at a stadium once where an older man was standing at the entrance. He was not sure if I would be able to referee the match I was appointed to. He didn’t believe that such a young girl could handle the match with almost grown men. When I left the stadium afterwards he spoke to me and admitted he wasn’t too sure about me being the referee earlier that day. Although now that he had seen me I was welcome to come as a referee every weekend. Situations like this gave me strength and faith for later challenges in my career.
What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee
- Trust your own instincts.
- Listen to your observers/instructors and take that advice with you.
- And for referees who will officiate their first games at a higher level, remember it is still just a game, 11 against 11 with 1 ball, so do your best, smile and enjoy!
Have a good time in Canada and enjoy the games you referee there.