WU17 summons stirs ambition for referee duo

Two of the 16-strong refereeing team at the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship, Croatia’s Ivana Martinčić and Ivana Projkovska from FYR Macedonia have quite a lot in common. Not only are they among the continent’s most promising female match officials, the Ivanas also share a name, an age – 29 – and big ambitions for their whistle-blowing careers. Ahead of Wednesday’s semi-finals in Reykjavik, UEFA.com put the same five questions to the Balkan duo …

UEFA.com: You were both promising players before moving into refereeing. How did that come about?

Ivana Martinčić: I played football for ten years, including four years in the top women’s division in Croatia. Then, at 23, something switched in my head and I decided to go for a referee course. My father, who was a referee too, had asked me when I was 15 if I’d be interested in refereeing but at the time I only wanted to play football.

Ivana Projkovska: I would probably still be in the FYR Macedonia national team now as I’m only 29 – and represented my country at every age group – but in the first and second Macedonian women’s divisions it is not possible to be both player and referee in the same season. So I decided to be a referee, also because as a ref you are the only person responsible for your performance, whereas playing it was a team job for the 11 on the pitch.

UEFA.com: What is the status of women’s refereeing in your country at the moment?

Projkovska: In FYR Macedonia we have only two FIFA-licensed female referees so there’s not a lot of competition. I officiate regularly at first and second division matches for men too, even more so at Macedonian Cup matches.

Martinčić: We have seven girls with the FIFA badge – three as referee and four as assistant ref. I often referee Croatian men’s third division games while my more experienced colleague Vesna Budimir is already in the second league. I believe women refs will soon be operating in men’s top flight.

UEFA.com: You are both 29 and are among the six referees for this final tournament. Has this experience boosted your ambitions?

Projkovska: Of course, but we have to progress step by step. I believe that, sooner or later, there will be senior UEFA matches for me.

Martinčić: This is my first major UEFA tournament and I’m really excited. You’ve got to aim high, and I think in the near future I will get some UEFA matches with a complete Croatian refereeing team, meaning four girls together.

UEFA.com: Would you rather oversee a men’s or a women’s match?

Martinčić: Honestly speaking, I generally prefer men’s games. Sometimes in women’s matches the ball is less controlled. With men, the contacts are cleaner, the passes more predictable, so it can be easier for a referee.

Projkovska: Yes, it is more difficult to read a game played by women. Also, we get even more respect from the men. In fact, in FYR Macedonia clubs increasingly want women referees assigned to their matches.

UEFA.com: What impressions will you take from these WU17 finals in Iceland?

Projkovska: I would really like to thank UEFA for giving me this opportunity. I had been a fourth official at the WU19 EURO five years ago in my home country, but this is a new major step in my career. We are a great team of referees here, and the whole organisation has been first class.

Martinčić: It is a great privilege for me to be here in Iceland. I hope everyone has been satisfied with my work. UEFA has really taken care of us and this is a very important message for me. What’s more, Iceland is really a beautiful country and we’ve quickly acclimatised, even to the weather.