FIFA referee Esther Azzopardi has decided to retire from refereeing with immediate effect.
Mr Azzopardi communicated her decision in a letter she sent to Kevin Azzopardi, the Malta FA Director of the Refereeing.
“I would like to wholeheartedly thank you for your time and dedication in my training and career progression throughout the past 19 years,” Mrs Azzopardi wrote in her resignation letter.
“I am grateful for the personal and professional development, where under your tutelage I have experienced great opportunities working with the MFA, UEFA and FIFA.”
Mr Azzopardi, the MFA Director of Refereeing, said: “Esther’s decision has taken me by surprise but, on behalf of the Malta Football Association and Maltese football in general, I can only thank her for her sterling service to the game.
“Esther was a role model for all referees and her success inspired many to take up refereeing, especially young women.
“Her achievements, both in the domestic scene where Esther established herself as one of the leading referees in the country, and on an international level surely helped to raise the profile of Maltese refereeing.”
Mr Azzopardi said Esther Azzopardi is willing to use her vast experience and knowledge for the benefit of local match officials and, to this end, she will be taking up new roles as Referee Observer and Refereeing Ambassador for female recruits within the Association’s Refereeing Department.
Mrs Azzopardi’s decision to bring the curtains down on her 20-year refereeing career comes only a few weeks after she was awarded il-Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika for making the country proud through her refereeing achievements.
The daughter of former FIFA assistant referee Ronnie Farrugia, Mrs Azzopardi began her career in 1997 and, 10 years later, she obtained the FIFA badge, the first Maltese female referee to achieve this status.
Last year, Mrs Azzopardi was selected to control games from the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup, played in Jordan.
During her career, Mrs Azzopardi has officiated over 65 international games from the UEFA Women’s Champions League as well as Women’s Euro and World Cup qualifiers while, locally, she has taken charge of over 50 matches in the BOV Premier League.