Until recently, very few people in Albania would have believed there would come a day when women could referee men's football matches in the country. Now this is a reality.
A group of young female referees with a love of the game are – with the help of the Football Association of Albania (FShF) – establishing themselves in the nation's footballing family. Some of the current class of match officials have played for professional women's teams themselves, but the rest have no such experience, with most students armed only with a passion for soccer and a desire to learn and improve in order to reach a high professional standard.
The FShF's refereeing department has given these women constant encouragement in the form of training sessions, seminars and regular advice regarding problems they may encounter during matches. Three are already elite referees officiating in the Albanian Women's Football Championship and the Women's Albanian Cup, which are organised by the FShF.
However, a historic event took place last season when KS Skënderbeu and KS Luftëtari met in the men's Albanian Super League. The two assistant referees were both female: Krista Gjyli and Fatjona Borova. Their first appearance impressed all and was warmly welcomed by the crowd, hopefully leading the way for others to follow in their path.
Prior to that, their experience of male football had been limited to domestic games at Under-17 and U19 levels, as well as other domestic women's matches. According to the FShF's refereeing department, the female referees have shown considerable potential, suggesting significant growth in this area in the coming years.
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