Women overcoming traditional barriers to play global role in football

Sixteen teams will compete at the sixth FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany 26 June through to 17 July. Two-time defending world champions Germany are in Pool A with Canada, Nigeria and France. Japan, New Zealand, Mexico and England make up pool B while United States , North Korea, Colombia and Sweden are in pool C. Pre-tournament favourites Brazil, Australia, Equitoral Guinea and Norway are in pool D.

Refereeing at the tournment will be one of Asian football's most experienced women officials, IM EunJu of South Korea. She is a FIFA instructor, AFC Referee, Korean OC, Professor of Eulji University, CEO of Allive Creative and a commentator for MBC TV.

She was the first Asian woman referee to officiate in the World Cup (1999), Olympic Games (Sydney 2000), Asian Cups, the Asian Games, the premier Korean leagues (importantly, both Men and Women) as well as the FIFA U17 World Cup.

She was interviewed recently by Jorge Ribeiro, Treasurer of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS):

Jorge Ribeiro - It’s not easy to a woman refereeing at men’s competitions (international and national).What do you think about this?

Dr. IM EunJu - We still have practical problems. Firstly, football is universally recognised as men’s sports in most of countries. FIFA has 208 member associations but only half of the countries have women’s football league.The reputation about women-referees is exceptionally low because of the religious and cultural reasons. Naturally, women's football is suffering, as the number of women-referees is low.

Secondly, Physicality is an issue. Men’s football has superior speed comparing to women’s football and there are very few women-referees officiating at a higher level. I guess I was a special case as trained through elite sports from very early childhood and had exceptionally fast, I timed 12.8 speed in the 100m run. My physical condition (my height is 5.64 feet) was good compared to other referees. Also, as a former national women's football team player my skills and knowledge of the game was good compared to other referees.

I was assigned only to men's matches in my country which was an advantage for me to grow as a professional referee. I think we should compete with specialities rather than peculiarities. Also I believe challenges and achievements as well as competitive edge is better than preferential treatment for women.

Nowadays, more women-referees are working in men's football game than in the past and the number will increase by their own efforts.

Jorge Ribeiro - FAIR PLAY within women’s football is it any different?

Dr. IM EunJu - I don’t think we have separated FAIR PLAY for women and men. I believe that a player’s fair play is when she/he follows the spirit of sportsmanship to achieve the best during the match and for the referee fair play is applying the rule of law rule in the game.