Before the FIFA Women’s World Cup fades from our memories, I would like to look at the referee of the final game. Tori Penso has an interesting background in refereeing, but she also has a message for girls or young women taking up the whistle.
By being appointed to the final of the competition, Tori achieved two records. Firstly, she was the first American referee to referee a World Cup Final. Not as surprising as it sounds perhaps, the American Women’s team has reached the FIFA Women’s World Cup final so many times.
Her other record was to be the first referee appointed to a major cup final after refereeing a semi-final of the same tournament. It will be remembered that she had refereed the England v Australia semi-final just a few days previously.
In competitions of this magnitude, many referees get sent home after the early rounds and those remaining know that if they get appointed to a semi-final, they aren’t going to get the final. It just doesn’t happen, so Tori was as surprised as everyone when the announcement was made. Pierluigi Collina, FIFA’s head of refereeing, said however, that they needed the best referee for the final and Tori was the best.
Four years before, Tori was at home watching the Women’s’ World Cup on television, whilst nursing her latest child, her third daughter. Tori has a long history in refereeing having started at the age of 14.
So, Tori worked her way through the various leagues, and has said that having children has improved her refereeing. Certainly, everyone watching her games will remember that she was always ready with a broad smile but never afraid of making tough decisions.
She also had a steady job in marketing, but she decided after the last world cup to give It up and become a full-time referee. Two years later she became the first and only female referee on the Major League Soccer, America’s equivalent of the Premier League.
Refereeing on the MLS can be even tougher that the Premier League because of the greater distances between clubs. It could entail a six-hour flight from her home to say Portland, and then back again with perhaps a midweek game in New York. But Tori knew what to expect, as her husband is also an MLS referee and on FIFA’s list.
Tori’s message to girls is simply that taking up refereeing can give women the strength of mind to go for the many jobs and professions that are still generally thought to be a man’s world only. It’s not just in football.
By Dick Sawdon Smith