Part 3: Get to know the biggest group of Women’s EURO match officials yet!

We are just days away from the kick-off of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 Championship in the Netherlands!

Here is the third and final part of your detailed insight into the biggest group of Women’s EURO match officials yet, enjoy!

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. In Part 2, we met Katalin KULCSAR (Hungary), Carina VITULANO (Italy), Monika MULARCZYK (Poland) and Teodora ALBON (Romania).

Please note: UEFA has revised the final list of EURO 2017 officials after many referees and assistant referees reportedly failed the fitness test, read more here.

Anastasia PUSTOVOITOVA (Russia)

Definitely the least experienced of the twelve referees, and the most surprising selection amongst the twelve referees. Surely it is a compliment to her that the Greek, Thalia Mitsi, missed out despite previously joining a World Cup and multiple Champions League Semifinals.

Having made a steady progress through her international career, and still not yet joining UEFA’s Elite Category, the Russian got a big assignment in 2014/15: Glasgow–Medyk Konin. Maybe this doesn’t sound like the biggest match, it isn’t with the respect to both teams, but for sure it was clear they would both put everything on the line for the qualification. After two hours, Pustovoitova had given seven yellow cards, nearly a record, but she more than had the control of this potentially problematic match. UEFA were impressed and so gave this referee one more test to see if she was to be promoted to Elite, she got the call for Bristol-Barcelona. Tense match, quite big crowd, and important decisions: the penalty that won it for Bristol was a brave and correct decision, Referee Observer De Boeck was happy and UEFA ascended her into the top level of European referees, the Elite category.

When she got there, again more steady progress, only one match in 2015/16 Champions League after a controversial Red Card at the end of Lillestrom-Zurich match marked probably a disappointing season, however she was clearly a referee UEFA were waiting to push further.

To be quite honest her EURO qualifiers are anything but great: MCE-SCO and SWE-SVK, show fairly important matches but ones that shouldn’t cause so much trouble to the referees. It was clear that eleven places were quite sure (which Czech and Swede would make it wasn’t clear, but it was clear there would be one from these nations), and it would be between Pustovoitova, and Thalia Mitsi who as recently as 2014 got a Champions League Semifinal, however faced an injury in the last years- UEFA gave the Greek referee some big appointments before the EURO selection, to see if she found her level again from a few years ago. For one or the other reason, UEFA decided to appoint the referee with much more to come, rather than Thalia Mitsi who has already probably reached the zenith of her career. I think you can have different views on this, but anyway Pustovoitova has the quality for the championship, that is clear, whether Mitsi has more is a subjective decision. All I would say is, Mitsi has a kind of a typical style, whereas Pustovoitova is young and actually different to the other referees in her approach.

In her Champions League match after the selection she was sent to the rather calm Quarterfinal return between ManchesterCity-FortunaHjorring, where she missed a penalty for handball (handball being a point of improvement in general for the Russian looking at the match in Bristol also), but otherwise showed a good performance.

I think the biggest success for Pustovoitova is actually being here, and will probably only get two matches in the group stage. Her style is very decision based, but her strong and very determined line actually suits her because I don’t see any other referee that is so unimpressed by a big name on the pitch that is joining this championship. Although her style works against her in a battle, for instance she lost control of Lillestrom-Zurich at the end resulting in the Red Card. Probably I would say that with such a strong personality, maybe she could use more verbal warnings and prevention management in addition to these brave facets of her style. Maybe this sounds obvious but in case of a bad match in terms of her crucial decisions, I think her personality isn’t so much suited to keeping control in these circumstances: for instance, however bad Stauli, Steinhaus etc are on a given day, they can earn an emphatic respect from the players. I am quite curious what matches UEFA send her to because I can’t really think of a certain match that suits her, probably she could make a good football match of two lower skilled teams, and her (relative) lack of experience kind of demands she doesn’t get the bigger matches.
She would need really very good performances to make the Knockout Round, but this is a very important development step in a career that has the potential to a be a very successful one.

Esther STAUBLI (Switzerland)

The Swiss is probably candidate number one for the Enscheda Final, she has risen herself to be one of the top referees in the world, and definitely counting to be one of the best personalities on the pitch ever in women’s football.

You surely remember these great matches: World Cup Final 1999, United States – Brazil 2007- these and many more were led by probably the best women’s referee of all time (Steinhaus could overtake her, maybe already has?), Nicole Petignat from Switzerland. Nicole Petignat refereed over one hundred matches in Super League (men’s top level) and even refereed a handful of men’s UEFA Cup fixtures, the only woman to achieve that in history. Anyway the high profile Swiss retired at the end of 2008, and there was a need to replace her- Esther Staubli was the chosen one, a talented and young referee that had joined International refereeing for two years at the time.

She was selected by FIFA to join Germany 2011 as a Fourth Official, and then was pushed by UEFA and got two Champions League Quarterfinals in a row, before being chosen for the EURO in Sweden in the summer. This is where she made her breakthrough on the big stage: after convincing performances in Italy-Denmark and Germany-Norway, she got the call for the biggest match of the championship and her career: sold out stadium in Gothenburg, host nation against the favourites, Sweden-Germany in the Semifinal. And she really rose to the occasion, besides the goal, the famous image of the match was Staubli cancelling a Sweden goal, there was foul before well spotted by the referee (even if you disagree about that Schelin was offside anyway), and that was part of a very good performance by the Swiss- she was belonging to the top referees in the World.

Then her career really did take off, another Semifinal, this time in Champions League, German Derby, Wolfsburg-Potsdam return in 2013/14, and again another convincing performance- it was clear now, she is one of the best referees not just in Europe, but for the whole world. It was clear she would attend the World Cup in Canada, but a huge show of FIFA’s trust in this referee came in November 2014. Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador drew scoreless in high altitudes in Quito, and FIFA chose Steinhaus for that match. Return in the Port-of-Spain, again full stadium, again massive pressure, and again the Swiss in the middle- quite a unique situation for a World Cup playoff and Staubli handled the pressure very well; she was really Petignat’s successor for sure now, and also at home, she joined the Challenge League (men’s second league), it was clear she could achieve really a lot.

A logical consequence then would be Champions League Final, it was clear she was the obvious favourite for the showpiece in 2015. UEFA sent her to the now quite famous second leg of Rosengard-Wolfsburg, six goals, tight stadium and a positive report from the important UEFA referee observer that day, Ms McDermott in the stands meant that her name for the Final was certain. And so it proved, in Berlin, Staubli showed a good performance in a quite challenging match between Frankfurt-Paris, and meant that she was one of the favourites to referee the World Cup Final in Vancouver that summer. However two only satisfactory performances in SouthKorea-Brazil and England-Norway, saw her sent home with only a couple of matches to her name; maybe she was a little unlucky but probably there were better names for the last matches of the World Cup.

A solid season saw her join another Champions League Semifinal in 2016, however with Lyon beating Paris 7-0 in the first match, the return was never going to be that crucial. Her EURO Qualifiers featured the very important ROM-GRE match- she had UEFA’s trust. After her obvious selection for the EURO, she was appointed to the challenging Lyon-Manchester City Semifinal return match, overall in a tough atmosphere she did okay.

With Monzul and Steinhaus already having World Cup Finals, Esther Staubli is candidate number one for the Final in Enscheda. A great personality on the pitch, one of the best ever, she can manage even the tensest matches in women’s football, whilst still gaining the respect of all the players. Maybe she is slightly too lenient at moments, but rather only gives a yellow card when everyone totally expects it rather than when technically it is demanded; verbal warnings usually suffice for her thanks to her sociable approach. Probably they will give her two top group matches, and in case of good performances a Quarterfinal, and then send her directly to the Final. UEFA will appoint her for top matches I’m sure, because her style probably best facilitates a fast, open football match more than any other referee in Netherlands. To my mind she is three good performances away from the biggest call of her life.

Pernilla LARSSON (Sweden)

A referee who has made steady progress in her career, and conveys a solid impression on the pitch; Larsson is one of the most consistent referees in UEFA and could actually make a lot in this Championship.

The top referee from Sweden for really, years, was a lady called Jenny Palmqvist, until she retired (the last championship she attended was EURO 2013), and then the solid Larsson had her chance. Not achieving that much before the season 2014/15, in case of a good season the Swede knew she could attend the World Cup in case of good performances, but that she would need a good season. Different types of matches: Brescia-Lyon in front of a big crowd, no problem; a fight for the biggest match in the history of Glasgow and Zurich, again completed with little problems. After Christmas, the head of women’s refereeing at UEFA, Ms Damkova was the observer for Bristol-Frankfurt and clearly she was impressed, as the Swede showed a convincing performance including a correct penalty. Larsson would be in Canada, and she would be the referee for the tight and very challenging Semifinal first match between Wolfsburg-Paris: a correct and very brave RC for Violent Conduct showed that she could be a name for the biggest matches in the world. Another chance to show that would be in Canada, where she was unlucky to only get one match, Cameroon-Switzerland, before being sent home.

2015/16 probably counted to a disappointment for her as her Quarterfinal was the (politely, put) not-very-close match between Lyon-Slavia Praha, and then a big problem for Larsson in her career at the top.

After Palmqvist from years ago, first UEFA tried to push a referee called Sara Persson who joined some important matches and then got some big tests; they were giving her a second chance: Wolfsburg-Chelsea and Romania-France, actually she did quite well in both of them. And then, probably a crucial match for both of the Swedes, even maybe decisive in who would attend the EURO this summer. Paris lost 3-1 in Norway, and LSK Kvinner would come defending a quite big lead. Persson the lady in the middle, and surely a big observer in the stands. The fact that she had no more appointments after this match, and that Larsson is refereeing at the EURO, maybe says how well it went for Persson…

Larsson’s only EURO Qualifier was a big test for her, nothing riding on Belgium-England talking about qualification but a big crowd and no easy match, surely she showed a fine performance and just as the two teams she was refereeing, she could book the flights to Netherlands for summer 2017.

After her selection as Sweden’s best referee and that she’d be among the names in Netherlands, Ms Damkova appointed herself as observer to watch the first match of the Quarterfinal between Bayern-Paris. Actually this was probably the hardest match of the season, watching it with 1.5 eyes she seemed to do decently, but not really having the best acceptance from the players. I think she must be credited from stopping the match from being a real battle.

Clearly Larsson is a very good referee and actually in a couple of Champions League matches showed she can take big decisions and keep control of very challenging matches, however I don’t think she is belonging to say the five best referees in Europe. She has a kind of patrolling approach, always close, not a totally managing style, but a strong personality that knows how to use it and when it’s needed. She is quite famous in Sweden, and she will be watched by her home nation in the Netherlands closely. I think she could be a name for a Quarterfinal, a Semifinal would represent a great tournament for her, but I cannot help but feel she’ll be the odd one out from the lineup for the knockout stages. Contributing to that impression was that her two long time assistant referees failed the fitness test and will not join the championship. In the group stage, her style is quite flexible so she could be name really for a lot of matches, maybe Spain-Portugal and then Norway-Denmark would be nice matches for her. She could achieve a lot but maybe one too many things conspired against her at this championship.

Kateryna MONZUL (Ukraine)

Whenever she is introduced on the television in the last years, we are told that she refereed the last World Cup Final, Japan – United States v2 in Canada. She did referee that Final, probably you don’t remember her because she was wonderfully invisible, seriously great performance albeit in not the hardest match but on the biggest stage in women’s football.
Monzul actually has been around for quite a long time, a German derby in Champions League and going to EURO 2009 marked a big development for the Ukrainian, and she would carry on her big progress in the next years, despite a stagnation of sorts, she debuted at Champions League Semifinal in 2013 in Arsenal-Wolfsburg, and was one of the referees who could make much in the summer at the EURO. Two solid performances in the group stage saw her appointed for the Denmark-Norway Semifinal, where again she showed a good performance- completing a satisfying EURO for the Ukrainian.

She was part of the generation change in UEFA refereeing, old names like Heikinnen, Damkova, Gaal, Ingrigova, Palmqvist were being replaced by fresh names, and hence so the plan was for her to referee the Champions League Final the next year. Don’t underestimate that she was tested before it though, the two hardest matches of the early round. Round of Thirty-Two, saw her appointed to Tyreso-Paris where she awarded a correct penalty. Then in Round of Sixteen there was a huge match, Lyon-Potsdam was the first ever Final after the competition re-brand, and somehow it was a fixture before Christmas in 2013/14, anyway big upset as Potsdam went to France and knocked out Lyon, and Monzul’s performance surely impressed the committee as she was the name for the best ever Champions League Final in Lisbon, as Wolfsburg beat Tyreso so dramatically 4-3- Monzul was good and made the match a grand spectacle for everyone involved.
Then 2014/15 was hardly bad for her, important matches again in Champions League and World Cup Qualifying, then the crucial Semifinal return between Paris-Wolfsburg, and then the World Cup. Monzul would blow the first whistle of the championship, and then one of the most controversial whistle of the tournament, an elbow to the head in the last minute, Monzul against showed her unimpressed style by awarding a penalty to host nation Canada. After no problems in Nigeria-United States, and being good in the searing heat in the Quarterfinal Japan-Australia, Massimo Busacca decided the team led by Kateryna Monzul would referee the seventh World Cup Final in Vancouver. No talk about the referee and a basically perfect performance will one of the crowns of her great career already.

When she came back from the World Cup, a really hard match, Bayern-Twente fought for the ticket to the Round of Sixteen, Monzul awarded one doubtful and one wrong penalty (with the help of her AR2 for the latter), and then took two, thanks to the first match, de facto inconsequential return matches for the rest of her season.

In the last couple of years she has joined regularly the top level of Ukrainian men’s football, showing she is a trusted name at the top in her own country also- for a woman in Eastern Europe to join the top league shows quite how good she is.

Her EURO Qualifiers included the biggest crowd of the whole phase in SWE-DEN, and the crucial, crucial playoff between ROM-POR where she was overall good although slightly missing in prevention at the end- overall she rose to the occasion (again). Her Champions League match after her inevitable and fully merited appointment to the EURO, was the tense return of the Quarterfinal, Barcelona-Rosengard, where her management style worked well and she showed a very good performance.
Kateryna Monzul is interesting because she offers a quite particular style, compared to most of her colleagues at the very top level. She can be quite pedantic at times, and never gives a really relaxed impression on the pitch; however, her great management skills on the pitch and her interactions with players are good and gain her respect on the pitch. She is not afraid to take big and unpopular decisions, but her style isn’t really a decision taker, she is a game-manager with a great insight for what’s happening on the pitch, and has an ‘X Factor’ she’s shown in big games for years now. I think getting the World Cup Final probably means UEFA would tend to another name for the showpiece in Enscheda this year, but she would expect a Semifinal, or maybe the host’s Quarterfinal in this tournament. She especially suits matches where there is a clash of styles, but really she is a name for almost all matches at the EURO this summer.


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