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HomeNewsFemale Referees Make History at Copa America 2024

Female Referees Make History at Copa America 2024

Eight women will break new barriers in refereeing the 2024 Copa America. The oldest national team tournament in the world will have female referees for the first time, and one of them is Venezuelan Migdalia Rodríguez.

“Whenever I step onto the field, I go out with dedication to do my job in the best way. I have earned the position I have today,” comments Rodríguez, a 32-year-old assistant referee, with confidence in an interview with AFP in the countdown to the competition, which starts this Thursday, June 20.

Brazilian Edina Alves and American Mary Victoria ‘Tori’ Penso will be the main referees, while Brazilian Neuza Back, Colombian Mary Blanco, Venezuelan Rodríguez, and Americans Brooke Mayo and Kathryn Nesbitt were chosen to be assistants at the event, while Nicaraguan Tatiana Guzmán will work with VAR.

In total, there are 101 officials.

“When the appointment arrived, it was an avalanche of emotions,” says Rodríguez with a smile. “I was with my partner, and what I did was scream with excitement. I started jumping and leaping because I was focused on the Olympic Games; that was the main goal,” she added.

“I started (refereeing) in 2009, and opportunities for women in men’s soccer were not as open. Today it is something commonplace,” she stresses. Tournaments like the Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores have been previous steps for her, having become an international referee in 2016, amid an increasing openness for female refereeing.

“We have been working towards that. Since I started, my physical preparation has always been focused on wanting to reach the men’s tournaments,” Rodríguez highlights. Barriers have been falling since the times when, after playing a match in Valencia, in her native Carabobo state (north-central Venezuela), she was invited by international referee Luis Solórzano to a refereeing course. She loved that world.

A glass ceiling shattered into a thousand pieces at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with female referees and assistants, including two of those who will be at the Copa America: Neuza Back and Kathryn Nesbitt. And in 2021, Edina Alves was already the first woman to officiate a match at the Club World Cup.

Olympic dream

After the Copa America, Rodríguez will go to the 2024 Paris Olympics along with another Venezuelan referee, Emikar Calderas, who is among the main referees. 38 of the 89 officials at the pinnacle event of sports will be women.

“It is a dream. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and say: ‘I am achieving things in such a short time,’ because I started as an international referee in 2016, and there are people who have been at the international level for 15 years and have not managed to be at the Olympic Games,” indicates Rodríguez.

“It is gratifying that FIFA, CONMEBOL, and the FVF (the Venezuelan Football Federation) are increasingly opening doors for women (…). There are no male or female referees. There are referees,” says Calderas, 34, in turn.

“The Olympic Games fill me with satisfaction. Every day I count down: 51 days left… 50… 49… It is a great opportunity,” adds this engineer dedicated to refereeing since 2010 and who has always been in love with Paris.

Regarding the growth of female refereeing, she maintained that “we were opening the way, they were giving us opportunities, and we took full advantage of them. Little by little, we were making inroads into the categories.”

“Referees are evaluated for each match. Everything depends on your performance in each match. If you do well, you move up,” she pointed out.

The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico is the next big challenge. “It is our focus,” Rodríguez declares.

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