Part 2: Get to know the biggest group of Women’s EURO match officials yet!
The countdown to UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 Championship continues as we get to know those who will be officiating this year’s biggest competition.
In Part 1, we gained a closer insight to officials, Jana ADAMKOVA (Czech Republic), Stephanie FRAPPART (France), Riem HUSSEIN (Germany) and Bibiana STEINHAUS (Germany). Part 3 will follow at a later date.
Katalin KULCSAR (Hungary)
Hungary has a big history in the last years of having many very big referees, Kulcsar is a continuation of that tradition. She was quite fortunate that she was able to be involved in many big games even at the start of her career: she joined Gyongyi Gaal as Fourth Official, for some matches including the first of leg of 2008’s UEFA Women’s Cup Final. However, if you remember the name Gyongyi Gaal, likely it is because of the match Australia-Equatorial Guinea. She had a total, total blackout and didn’t whistle a penalty when the ball was (literally!) picked up inside the penalty area. Of course she was sent home, and never really recovered to get to the really top level again.
This allowed Kulcsar to make big steps in her career, and coupled with joining some NB1 (top level men’s) matches as Additional AR (behind the goal), in 2013 she was appointed to a Champions League Semifinal, and then EURO 2013 in Sweden. She made a convincing impression and was appointed to the Quarterfinal Germany-Italy, and overall showed that she was one of UEFA’s best referees. Anyway into 2014/15 she was appointed to the crucial Champions League Round-of-16 match, the return match of Lyon-Paris, with the first leg awarded to Monzul this was probably the biggest test of her career. She showed a great performance in tense circumstances and showed again that she could be relied on when UEFA needed a big referee; she got another Champions League Semifinal that year, which was the perfect preparation as she was selected for the World Cup in the summer. Surely even in her own words it was a bit of a disaster in Canada: in Cameroon-Ecuador she didn’t really feel the match and awarded three penalties that weren’t actually wrong, but were a little too soft for a World Cup match. However FIFA showed they trusted her, and sent her to the crucial final matchday fight between NewZealand-China, where she made probably the worst crucial mistake of the competition (just, looking at France-Colombia…) by awarding a penalty for handball, when the ball hit the chest of the NewZealand player (do you see a theme, Hungarian referees and handball;-)). She was, naturally, sent home after the group stages.
Surely she had a lot of thinking to do, and recovered in brilliant way, two Champions League matches in 2015, including a simply great performance in Chelsea-Wolfsburg, meant that she had a chances to achieve something really big. Ms Damkova was the referee observer in Barcelona-Paris: a good performance would mean she was favourite for the Final. Ms Damkova (head of UEFA refereeing) surely wrote her a good mark, as she was designated for the Final! It was really nice to see a referee find the self-belief and determination to totally recover from such a World Cup, probably it made her even stronger as a referee. Anyway in the outskirts of Milan she showed a good performance, where she was no talking point at all after the match.
Her (two) EURO qualifiers show that she is a referee trusted by UEFA: CZR-ITA and ISL-SCO, and her participation in this summer in Netherlands was never in doubt, especially after showing a very good performance in Hjorring-Bilbao in Champions League. After she got her selection for EURO 2017, she was appointed for ManchesterCity-Lyon, where she awarded a doubtful but okay penalty, and overall leaving a convincing impression on the Champions League Semifinal first match.
Her modern but determined style suits matches where the stakes as well as the level of football is high, but she does have good management skills to keep control of a match that can turn into a battle (Chelsea-Wolfsburg, especially was very impressive). She is an empathic referee that also keeps some distance from the players. I think you can expect to see her in some high profile matches, and she is belonging to a group of referees that are an option for the Final. Not getting a knockout round match would represent a disappointing tournament for a very good referee.
Carina VITULANO (Italy)
To succeed in sport, it is widely accepted that taking your opportunity and coming back from injury are two of the most important facets to a long and fruitful career. Carina Vitulano showed both of these in the last years and her story is one of the most remarkable of all twelve referees. She was starting to be pushed in UEFA in 2012/13 when she was assigned Potsdam-Arsenal in Champions League and in a frantic game showed a convincing performance, and so she was chosen (with two other talents) to join EURO 2013 as a Fourth Official. Italy’s referee at the championship was Silvia Tea Spinelli, who was one of UEFA’s favourite referees at the time. However, Silvia Tea Spinelli had a disastrous performance in her first match, and she was sent home. Controversially, UEFA decided to promote Vitulano to be a referee at the championship, where her second match was Denmark-France in the Quarterfinal. She awarded a (very) tactically unwise, penalty to France who then lost the penalty competition and were eliminated. Silvia Tea Spinelli never really recovered from EURO 2013, and Vitulano took her place as Italy’s top referee- she’d showed she could referee well in the big matches, however her quite frantic style wasn’t so much suited to every match. Probably in the next season she was even the best referee in Champions League, anyway she was the referee making the biggest progress, she was appointed for the return match of Tyreso-Birmingham in Champions League at the Semifinal stage, where she awarded a correct penalty for handball, and overall showed a sovereign performance. Then, a true disaster for Vitulano, she tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) at the Under20 World Cup in the summer, and her dreams of participating in the World Cup itself seemed all but over- but Vitulano showed really true grit and worked her fitness up to be selected in FIFA’s final list, despite having no Champions League matches that year. It really was quite an inspiring comeback; from the scene where she was writhing around on the pitch in agony, a year later she returned to Canada, and her second match was the Quarterfinal United States-China where she showed a good performance. 2015/16 was a big season for her, a Champions League Final at home was pretty close for her. After two good performances in big matches, UEFA sent her to one of (probably, the) hardest match of the whole season, Frankfurt-Rosengard in the Quarterfinal return match. It was tense, it was tough, the players put everything on the line and there was a referee team in the middle. It was an okay performance, she had control of the match and took the big decisions right, but she slightly struggled to find a clear line in cards. It was the most challenging Champions League match I’ve ever seen, and in the circumstances the Italian can be happy with her performance.
Her EURO Qualifiers weren’t so big, but also not exactly small either: SCO-BLR and RUS-CRO, UEFA seemed pretty sure of her anyway. Her Champions League match after knowing she would be in Netherlands, was the Quarterfinal return match Paris-Bayern, where in a surprisingly easy match she was convincing.
Amongst the twelve referees she has a unique style, doing everything quite hectically- this style is perfect for some matches and contributes to a great football match, however can fail in some not-as-fast matches. If there is a hard fixture in the last matchday of the group stage, between two passionate teams, do not be too surprised see the Italian in the middle (and actually looking at Cristina Dorcioman four years ago, fantastic performance in the crucial Iceland-Netherlands match got her directly the Final, she definitely wasn’t a name for the Final before the Championship). She has potential to go far, but a Quarterfinal would be about expected.
Monika MULARCZYK (Poland)
The Polish referee probably counts to the group of referees that despite not really being a name for the Final, are amongst those really trusted by UEFA that are joining this championship. She is reasonably well known in Poland, and in her own nation anyway is probably one of the most recognisable referees in Netherlands this summer. Her career was making a steady progress, she joined EURO 2013 as Fourth Official and got her first Champions League match into the Quarterfinal in 2014/15, showing herself to one of Europe’s biggest talents. Mularczyk took a break of about nine months from international fixtures, before UEFA clearly tried to test her with three matches late in qualification looking at her EURO selection: SCO-SVN, CZR-SUI, ESP-FIN, the last match in Madrid especially being pretty crucial for both the teams and her own participation for this EURO; watching the match it was clear that UEFA couldn’t ignore this referee for the finals, she showed a very good performance, and they didn’t ignore her: she was well deserving of her selection.
Her Champions League match after Christmas was the important match between Lyon-Wolfsburg, which was the Final of course last year. Despite the 0-2 reverse in the first match, it was definitely a challenging setting, and again the Polish left a very impressive impression. With her AR1 she correctly changed her decision to not to give Lyon a penalty, and then made the correct decision to assign one for Wolfsburg later in the match, and then gave a correct Red Card in additional time. To my eyes she was unfortunate not to get a Semifinal this year.
At EURO 2017, I think the calm and assured style of Mularczyk will see her assigned first to a not so important match, and then UEFA will decide her progression. Probably for this reason she will be appointed early in the Championship, and especially as her style is at a ‘middle ground’ of this tournament, maybe we could see her in the first day of competition. She doesn’t really rely on cards, nor just her personality. As a summary, I think she could get into the knockout rounds but would have to show (very) good performances, but still one of the most reliable referees this summer.
Teodora ALBON (Romania)
The former player at the top level of Romanian football decided, seventeen years ago, to remain on the pitch, but instead with a watch as a whistle in the middle. With the help of her husband, who is the coach of Romania now and a former AR in Liga1 (highest men’s league), she progressed very quickly and in less than a decade was in the middle for some consequential Champions League matches. Her career is interesting because it was almost in tandem with another Romanian, Cristina Dorcioman. Considering at that time a former World Cup Final referee, Ionescu, was still refereeing in UEFA it was a quite remarkable feat that two young Romanians could join this top level, especially considering that politics suggests that only one referee from each (especially small and not that politically ‘important’ nation like Romania). However, it did work to their advantage that no Romanian teams could put them out of contention for big matches; pressure which they were already used to as they both refereed in Liga2 at home.
For some years it was Cristina Dorcioman that got the better designations, but then a pivotal moment: Albon was essentially chosen over her countrywoman for the famous Semifinal in Champions League 2011/12, Lyon-Potsdam in the pouring rain, and her career started to take off from there. Surely a great performance in the tense Quarterfinal Torres-Arsenal, saw her start the new generation of UEFA referees by getting called for the Final in London in 2012/13, where she awarded the crucial penalty that saw Wolfsburg beat Lyon 1-0. Then she was at EURO 2013, where she didn’t get out of the group stage after two matches, and instead it was Dorcioman who got the Final itself! Unfortunately, it was a poor performance, with two incorrectly awarded penalties, and a basically weak management in general of the match. Still they both got top matches in Champions League, but honestly I don’t think Dorcioman ever found her top level after the EURO Final, whereas in 2013/14 Albon got a Semifinal (Birmingham-Tyreso). Still there was a fight for the World Cup, that Albon essentially made safe by a good performance in the playoff Netherlands-Italy. After two good performances, one read the name Teodora ALBON in the match Germany-UnitedStates, the Semifinal. In the biggest match of her life, she missed a RC for denying an obvious goal chance and instead showed a Yellow card, and then incorrectly awarded a penalty- the foul was outside, despite an overall good tournament it was kind of tainted by that crucial encounter. Anyway she recovered well from the World Cup, and refereed the first match of the German Derby in Champions League Semifinal in 2016/17.
Despite being trusted for so many important qualifiers for the World Cup, she only got one EURO qualifier for 2017: FIN-ESP, a possible explanation for this would be that her husband was coaching Romania (who could have faced a great number of teams in a playoff) and they didn’t want any conflicts of interests. She was a sure name for the EURO, the only real doubt was whether Dorcioman would join her, but probably she didn’t do enough and politics worked against her. Her Champions League match after selection was Barcelona-Paris in the first match of the Semifinal, where Albon was convincing.
Her style is interesting, because as marked by almost all former-player referees (as we can see with Adamkova) it is underlined with empathy, however she isn’t so interested in having too many relationships with the players. Not relying too much on cards, we would probably call her style laissez-faire. It is clear she is one of UEFA’s most trusted referees, and her style suits so much to a typical Semifinal, and also matches of a high skill, probably in a battle she would slightly rely on cards but still succeed in control. Anyway for all the big matches, don’t be too surprised to see the name Teodora Albon.