New Delhi: The Indian football team may have little chance of progressing beyond the first round in the Asian Games, but two women referees from India are set to create a record when the multi-event sporting extravaganza opens in Incheon next month.
For the first time in the history of the Asian Games, two Indian women referees – Maria Rebello and Uvena Fernandes – have been selected by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to supervise matches.
“Indian women referees were never invited for such big events,” said Gautam Kar, the head of All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) referees department. “We are delighted that they have recognised the services of two of them,” he said.
While Maria is one of India’s most reputed women referees and already in the Fifa and AFC panels, Uvena is a relatively new entrant in the international arena. The 33-year-old is a former India player and an officer in the Indian Air Force.
“I took up refereeing even before I stopped playing,” said the former right back of the Indian team. “I wanted to be a Fifa referee and supervise matches abroad. Now my dream has come true,” Uvena said.
A squadron leader, Uvena is currently posted in Assam and has a tough life. Married to an officer in the Indian Army, Uvena has a four-year-old son, who has just started going to preparatory school.
“I somehow manage to find time to practice between doing duty in the office and looking after my son,” said Uvena. “The best time for practice is when my son goes to sleep,” she said with a laugh.
Uvena was the first woman officer in the Services to regularly supervise matches in the Subroto Cup.
Maria, on the other hand, is a seasoned referee with many firsts to her credit. She was the first woman referee to supervise Santosh Trophy matches. Last season, she set another mark by supervising I-League matches.
“Maria is a veteran in the Asian circuit,” said Kar.
Two other Indian referees – A Rowan and Magho Singh – would also be doing duty in the Incheon Games.