Esther Azzopardi for UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship finals

FIFA Referee Esther Azzopardi has been appointed to officiate in the 2010 UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship final tournament hosted in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia between May 24 and June 5. The match officials’ team consists of six referees and eight assistants, along with two fourth officials.

The teams taking part in Group A are Scotland, England, Germany and Italy; while Group B consists of FYR of Macedonia, Spain, Netherlands and France.

On Monday, Ms Azzopardi will be the referee of the match Scotland–England to be played at Zelezarnica Stadium, Skopje.

Before the selection for the final tournament, Esther Azzopardi attended the sixth UEFA course for international women referees held in Nyon between the 5th and 7th May.

Thirty-seven female referees and assistant referees attended sessions on reading the game, punishment steps, the advantage rule, dealing with situations when players are injured, dissent, handball, positioning and movement, teamwork between referees and assistants – these are essential components of refereeing and the decision-making process for a team of officials – which were examined in practical and discussion sessions that made use of video clips to highlight salient points. They also took a fitness test at the Colovray stadium opposite UEFA’s House of European Football.

The course gave the referees the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas, with the creation of a women’s referee network involving UEFA, the match officials and the relevant national association bodies – a key plan for the future as the women’s refereeing sector grows in significance. It has also served as a selection process for the UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship and its Under-17 equivalent on this summer’s agenda.

For the second consecutive year, Esther Azzopardi has been confirmed on the UEFA Talents Programme. The young referees and assistants – the talents – are fostered by their experienced mentors, who themselves are seasoned former international referees. The mentors remain in constant contact with their referees by e-mail or telephone, and by either visiting them or inviting them to the mentors’ respective countries. Their discussions focus on on-field performances as well as on matters such as diet, general conduct, and improving communication in English (now the common language of refereeing at UEFA level).

A total of 156 talents from 50 UEFA member associations have been through the UEFA programme over the past ten years, and seven European referees who were part of the talents and mentors scheme will be at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer. Participants in the talents and mentors programme are selected on the basis of their displays in UEFA and domestic matches.