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VAR centre stage in India as match officials encounter fresh challenge: FIFA

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Bhubaneswar: The World Cup football championship for women under-17 which kicked off on Tuesday in three cities of India here teenage footballers from around the globe will have the opportunity to showcase their skills, another set of people, who have toiled hard behind the curtains will have another platform to showcase themselves, the match officials.

There are 61 match officials at the tournament from 33 countries including 14 referees and 3 support referees. They are supported by a team of 28 Assistant Referees and 16 Video Match Officials.

FIFA’s Head of Refereeing, Women, Kari Seitz, insists that the tournament is as important to them, as it is to the players and coaches involved.

“Every match official here is also a candidate for the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand next year,” said Seitz.

“This is their last chance to show us what they are capable of despite it being a tournament involving younger players, it’s a world stage at the end of the day. So, their performance in the matches, their fitness levels and their communication will all be evaluated here.

” As part of the project ‘Road to Australia-New Zealand 2023’, all the referees have had individual fitness coaches and technical coaches since 2020.

Under the watchful eyes of Seitz, they also underwent an intense five-day training programme after landing in India. “The referees come from all parts of the world and our endeavour through this training is to ensure that before the tournament begins, all of them have the same approach to the game,” Seitz explains.

The referees at this tournament will also be part of history with this being the first FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in which VAR technology is being utilised.

Video Assistant Referees featured in the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 and will also be used in the 2023 edition of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. “Although all of the match officials have VAR certification, the level of experience on the field is very different based on the respective region they are coming from.

All of them though are very excited to use it,” Seitz continued.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India holds the potential to energise a billion people in showcasing the women’s game and the match officials will have a pivotal role to play in making it a success. A chance at making the final list for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup will be a valuable motivation to the group.

Another legacy of the tournament which Seitz hopes for is to see an Indian representation in the match officials’ team in the years to come. “If we have a billion people who love football, some will take up football. Of those, some can be coaches and some can be referees. It would be my dream to have more women from India becoming referees,” concluded Seitz.

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