UEFA has recently appointed three new local referee observers on its 220-strong Observers’ Panel for the coming two seasons; the trio attended a course for newly-recruited UEFA referee observers that was held in Nyon, Switzerland towards the end of last season.
Director of Refereeing (appointed in the role in March 2016) and former FIFA Referee Kevin Azzopardi, brings along an 18-year career as an active referee, the highlight of which was his UEFA Youth League appointment in November 2013 between FC Juventus and FC Copenhagen. Mr Azzopardi’s first appointment was during the UEFA Europa League Round 3 Leg 1 clash between Sturm Graz (Austria) and Fenerbahçe (Turkey) that was played in Graz a fortnight ago. He was accompanied by experienced UEFA Referee Observer Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).
Malta’s only female FIFA Referee to date, Esther Azzopardi, will thus also become Malta’s first ever UEFA Women’s Referee Observer following a 20-year career that culminated with her participation in the FIFA Womens U/17 World Cup in Jordan last October, among many other international appointments. Ms. Azzopardi is set to make her debut in a UEFA Womens’ Champions League Qualifying Tournament in Northern Ireland next week.
The third new recruit is Marco Borg, also a former FIFA Referee, who retired in 2016 following a 25-year career during which he controlled the Malta FA Trophy no less than three times, as well as various important international appointments. Mr Borg made his debut during last week’s UEFA Europa League Round 3 Leg 2 encounter between Olexandriya (Ukraine) and Astra (Romania) during which he was under the tutelage of seasoned UEFA Referee Observer Rune Pedersen from Norway.
Experienced referee observers Messrs Charles Agius and Gaetano De Gabriele complete the full complement of Maltese Referee Observers at UEFA level; both had various important appointments during the first weeks of this season in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches.