In its efforts to constantly create new opportunities for its match officials, the MFA Refereeing Department in collaboration with the Football Association of Ireland has made it possible for FIFA Referees Marco Borg and Esther Azzopardi to participate at the 28th edition of the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.
The World University Summer Games are held every two years in a different city. They are the only summer multi-sport event that connects students at both academic and athletic levels. The event is only second to the Olympic Games with the participation of around 13,000 participants from 149 countries.
Marco Borg is one of 15 FIFA Referees officiating in the men’s football competition composed of 16 teams, while Esther Azzopardi is one of 13 FIFA Referees officiating in the women’s football event composed of 15 teams. This is the first time that Maltese referees are officiating in this event.
On Match Day 1 played on Thursday 2nd July, Marco Borg was appointed as 4th Official in the Men’s Group C match between Japan and Iran (2-1) at the Jeongeup Stadium. The referee of this encounter was Davide Massa (Italy). On the same day, Esther Azzopardi was also appointed as 4th Official in the Women’s Group B match between Japan and Russia (0-0) at the Mokpo Football Centre. The referee of this match was Akhona Zennith Makalima (South Africa).
Marco Borg’s first appointment as a referee is the Japan vs Brazil encounter on Sunday 5th July at the Yeonggwang Stadium. South Korean match officials consisting of assistant referees Kim Tae Yang and Ahn Sang Yun, and 4th Official Kim Heegon are the other members of Marco Borg’s refereeing team. Both Japan and Brazil are being considered as possible gold medal winners.
Esther Azzopardi makes her debut as a referee in the Japan vs Colombia match on Saturday 4th July at the Boseong Stadium. Her assistant referees are Jung Eun Jin and Woo Ye Ram, both from South Korea, while her 4th Official will be Maria Gonzalez Martinez from Mexico.
In a short statement from Gwangju, Marco Borg stated that “I feel honoured to be participating in this world prestigious event and my stay here makes all my sacrifices worth doing year after year.” In her comments, Esther Azzopardi said that “the level of football is high and the experience is amazing.”