At least one member of the team of women who will serve as referees for tonight's Women's World Cup championship match between the U.S. and Japan has been involved in one of the more controversial calls of the tournament. Some critics have asked FIFA, soccer's governing body, whether or not there was enough concern about the quality of the refereeing to warrant changes. All of the games have been officiated by female referees, and the head of women's competitions for FIFA early in the tournament dismissed suggestions that perhaps "more experienced" male officials should be brought in instead, according to Reuters.
"We now have to decide: do we give more opportunities to the women's referees to be at the top level of the game or do we still not do enough?" Tatjana Haenni said to Reuters. Eventually, she said, not cultivating experienced female refs would present "huge difficulties" for them to ever achieve the top standing in the sport.
Tonight's officials include two Ukrainians, head referee Kateryna Monzul and Natalia Rachynska; Yolanda Parga of Spain, and Claudia Umpierrez of Uruguay. Rachynska called a penalty in stoppage time in the opening match of the World Cup tournament between China and host country Canada, according to The Associated Press. The penalty allowed Canada's Christine Sinclair to score the only goal in the match, giving Canada a 1-0 victory. There's a huge amount of pressure on the women who will be officiating tonight's game, but they're all experienced referees, according to FIFA. So who are they?
Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine
She had a choice between playing or refereeing, and she chose refereeing, Monzul said in this FIFA profile video of her. She's a teacher, and has been an international referee since 2004. "I hope and I am sure that I will be prepared for this," she says.
Natalia Rachynska of Ukraine
Rachynska drew headlines for the controversial call during the Canada vs. China game, but she's a bit of a question mark otherwise. FIFA's official stats list her as 44 years old, and note that she's been refereeing at the international level since 2004.
Yolanda Parga of Spain
Parga's father was a linesman in Spain, and she decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps, she said in an interview with FIFA.com. "He's thrilled with how I've done and supports me more than anyone," she said. Parga, 32, is a mother and has a day job as a social worker, and said it can be a challenge to juggle her refereeing with her day job and family life. "When competitions come around, I have to give up holidays and days off, and ask for time off to be able to travel. My family are my biggest support and they help me an awful lot."
Claudia Umpierrez of Uruguay
Her uncle was a professional soccer player in France, and her father was a technical director. She said soccer, or fútbol, as it's known in most Spanish-speaking countries, was "more than a hobby" in her family, and her aunt was also a referee. Being selected for the Women's World Cup gave her "goosebumps," Umpierrez said.
Images: FIFATV/YouTube (2)