Part 1: Get to know the biggest group of Women’s EURO match officials yet!
The biggest Women’s EURO ever starts in Netherlands very soon: this means the biggest group of match officials yet.
Twelve referees, up from nine in 2013, will be joined by twenty-four assistant referees, and a handful of support and standby referees.
For all of them, it will surely be belonging to a career highlight; I’ll try to preview what you can expect from the women in black this summer! I’ll have to post in three parts, thanks to exams and other commitments.
Jana ADAMKOVA (Czech Republic)
I must say when the names where released I was most surprised to read the name Adamkova, a former player and goalscorer for her nation, on the list of twelve. This is not because she doesn’t deserve it, actually the opposite is true she has been a reliable referee that has impressed whenever I’ve seen her. Back in 2011, one the best ever UEFA women referees Ms Damkova from Czech Republic retired (now leading UEFA’s Women Referee Committee) and Adamkova was essentially to take her place. Big matches followed, the biggest maybe Potsdam – Lyon in Champions League in 2013 and was clearly belonging to UEFA’s top referees. She even had chances for Canada, she was appointed for the UEFA Playoff Semifinal, Italy – Ukraine as surely a test; however, she was essentially replaced by Stephanie Frappart on the final selection. Then a year later a promising young Czech called Olga Zadinova was really pushed by UEFA, and it was clear there was to be a battle for the EURO. Zadinova never really got that many big matches in qualifying for the EURO (however she was paired with better ARs); Adamkova got four matches: IRL-FIN, POR-SPN, SCO-ISL and DEN-SWE: it was clear UEFA had to test this referee. Anyway clearly she passed, the EURO was this time too early for the younger Zadinova.
Then in Champions League, Adamkova was the only referee who got called for two matches after the EURO selection, having shown a convincing performance in Wolfsburg-Lyon, she was consequently got the call for Paris-Barcelona Semifinal return match.
She is definitely belonging to UEFA’s most trusted referees and is a name for the bigger matches, and having Ms Damkova make the appointments isn’t an awful situation for her. She is an option to go beyond the group stages, and especially for a match involving the Netherlands her calm and unflappable style would suit to her handling the pressure.
Stephanie FRAPPART (France)
There is much debate about ‘fast-tracking’ referees and Stephanie Frappart is an interesting example of this. Having only joined International matches since 2011, she showed a fantastic and very quick development in the season 2014/15, honestly kind of out of the blue, having not really been a prominent referee in the biggest matches before that. This was probably thanks to her promotion to Ligue 2 (men’s), which made her one of the most recognisable referees in France being the first women to reach this feat. She was appointed for hard, but never crucial matches in World Cup Qualifying, and then it seems a decisive ‘exam’: surely FIFA were watching when she was appointed for Wolfsburg-Rosengard at a Champions League Quarterfinal, and obviously she passed this test: she would be in Canada! At the World Cup after one group match, she held her nerve in the tense Round of Sixteen match, United States-Colombia, including with her AR deciding correctly for a Red Card and a penalty. She then joined a Semifinal as Fourth Official: despite being the most inexperienced UEFA referee at the tournament she was one of the best at the last World Cup. Her progress slightly stagnated since then, joining Rio 2016 she wasn’t too convincing in her first match and didn’t get anything in the knockout rounds. Her EURO Qualifiers were again important but not crucial: POL-SVK, IRL-SPN, SRB-ENG; however for the playoff return match Romania-Portugal she was appointed Fourth Official to Kateryna Monzul, a clear sign UEFA trusts her (she functions in this role very often in Ligue 1). Her Champions League match after being selected was a Quarterfinal, Rosengard-Barcelona, and her performance wasn’t discussed in the media.
Her decision taking style really suits matches between a high-skilled and a low-skilled team, and especially at United States-Colombia she showed she isn’t impressed by big names or atmospheres.
Riem HUSSEIN (Germany)
The ‘second’ referee from Germany joining the EURO; the pharmacist from Central Germany has already achieved a lot despite being quite unknown compared to her compatriot Bibiana Steinhaus. Joining the International refereeing list in 2009, she was always behind World Cup referees Baitinger and aforementioned Bibiana Steinhaus; but even before the former retired she was overtaking her in UEFA’s estimation. Having reached two Champions League Quarterfinals previously, and getting bigger matches for World Cup Qualifying, 2015/16 saw her be promoted to the 3.Liga, joining (yes, you guessed it) Bibiana Steinhaus to be the only women to reach that level. All her three Champions League matches in 15/16 also were a big success, which culminated in a very convincing performance in Paris-Barcelona that showed she was belonging to the top level of UEFA refereeing, she had found a breakthrough season. Her EURO qualifiers suggest that UEFA wanted to test her: MDA-SWE, NOR-AUT, POR-FIN: the last two especially were pivotal matches. She awarded three (!) penalties in Portugal-Finland, all were actually hard, tight decisions, I think she got two right and the other was (very) doubtful. I think it reflects well on her however that UEFA still chose her despite Germany having a very good chance to make the final stages and already having a top class referee selected for the championship. In her Champions League match after the EURO, she nearly broke the yellow card record in twenty minutes! Seventy minutes of no cards was followed by seven cautions in the last minutes of FortunaHjorring-ManchesterCity, she was only one YC off the record set by… Bibiana Steinhaus. However she was in Cardiff for the Champions League Final, where she functioned as Fourth Official in a full German team. The referee was Bibiana Steinhaus.
Honestly I think you can be sure there will be one, just one, German referee in the latter stages of this UEFA. I would put it like this, if Hussein and Steinhaus show the same level of performances, Steinhaus will probably progress. Honestly though, Steinhaus has achieved everything in International refereeing, and I hope UEFA wants to see a new name make some developments. Certainly, Riem Hussein isn’t the biggest match manager at the championship, but for sure her plucky and very brave style suits matches where calls rather than control are the major challenges for the referee.
Bibiana STEINHAUS (Germany)
Easily the most recognisable referee at this Championship, and probably the most recognisable women’s referee in the World (ever?), Bibiana Steinhaus actually can probably count herself as a trailblazer in her field. She grabbed national attention in 2007, when it was announced she was promoted to be a referee in 2.Bundesliga, where she had been an AR for four seasons previously. Her first major international Championship was in 2009, she attended the EURO, where she got to referee the Quarterfinal Sweden-Norway as well as two group matches. You’ll notice a quite marked theme in her career, getting to a late stage, deserving more but having a German team stop her progress. At World Cup 2011, this was no problem, having shown two good performances in group stages and Germany beaten by Japan, the stars aligned for the Police Officer as she was appointed for the World Cup Final, Japan-United States. She showed a very convincing performance, with a Red Card in the last minute that was totally correct. Then a year later, she got the same final this time at London 2012, unfortunately she wasn’t so impressive this time. Having motivations after getting the biggest game must be hard, but promotion to the Bundesliga itself was now surely her biggest goal. Anyway on the International scene, she was at her second EURO, and refereed the opening game, whistling two basically incorrect penalties. Still she got the Quarterfinal Norway-Spain, and left . Then it was World Cup 2015, a soft penalty with an overall good performance in Canada-New Zealand in group round was followed by only one more match, but in general I think she can be disappointed only getting two matches. Now promotion at home was very close, and internationally her EURO qualifiers show she is a totally rusted referee NOR-WAL and ROM-UKR, the latter belonging to probably the hardest game of the whole cycle. Like 2011, in Champions League all German teams were eliminated before the Semifinal- this gave UEFA the chance to (finally) give her the Final, which they took. She showed a good performance in a tense and honestly tepid match, from live in the stadium I can say there was no talk about the referee which tells it’s own story. However before that, she really did get a call that changed her life: it was a call that said she was promoted to the Bundesliga! A goal that was insight for ten years had finally been achieved; a glass ceiling had been broken and really a quite amazing feat by the German joining a very short list of Women who joined their top men’s league (Petignat, Damkova) but never in a league as big as the Bundesliga.
When she joins the EURO in the summer, I think a bigger priority for her is that first whistle in the Bundesliga next season (where she was frequently appointed as Fourth Official and gained big media praise for her work), than refereeing at a third EURO. For this reason, it will be interesting to see how UEFA manages her appointments. At least one can remember that Ms Damkova making the appointments faced a similar situation some years ago; they can approach each other with much empathy. In terms of her personality she is a typical German: a lot of talking and not many cards! She is the best match manager amongst the twelve referees, control is not really a problem for such a known referee and she is probably per se the most respected referee by the players at this EURO. I think you can expect her in either a Derby or a Netherlands match, in some ways I hope it is the ‘other’ German, Riem Hussein, who makes the knockout rounds, but when the crucial matches need arbitrating, it is hard to ignore the name Steinhaus.