Ivana Projkovska, who referees Sunday's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final, is the first official from North Macedonia to take charge of any UEFA championship final since independence – and is relishing the prospect.
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A little bit of history will be made in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final in Paisley, Scotland on Sunday, regardless of the result between France and Germany.
Ivana Projkovska has been selected as referee – and will be the first official from North Macedonia to take charge of any UEFA championship final since independence from the former Yugoslavia. Her only compatriot to achieve anything similar was Stohan Ilejevski who, representing Yugoslavia, refereed the 1985 men’s U16 EURO final in Budapest.
"It means a lot," Projkovska told UEFA.com. "We are a very small country, it means a lot even for Macedonian people and for women's football, I hope I will be an example for women to start working and never to quit – they can achieve the highest level."
Being picked to referee a final is always a major honour. "This is an amazing thing," Projkovska said. "We work a lot during the year, so this is like the cherry on the cake."
This will not be the first final in which she has been involved, having been fourth official at the 2015 Women’s U17 decider. Projkovska was similarly deployed in the Women’s U19 final a year later, when a freak thunderstorm not long before half-time meant that the interval in Senec between France and Spain ended up being extended until the suddenly waterlogged pitch was made playable.
“It was a crazy, crazy match," Projkovska recalls. "It started raining, and there had to be a two-hour break at half-time. We were waiting in the dressing room, we didn't know if the final would continue or not. But it was nice to be there, even as a fourth official. The pride is the same for the whole refereeing team."
Projkovska will be assisted by Estonia's Karolin Kaivoja and Romania's Alexandra Petrea, with Zuzana Valentová of Slovakia acting as fourth official. The international combination of referees at this tournament is an unusual challenge. Projkovska said: "It's not so easy, as you don’t know their habits or how they are working, but as we are here a long time, we can work together and learn how to be the best."
Like several top female officials, Projkovska is a former international as a player, which she believes is a big help as a referee: "I was a player, in the national team, and after that, the FA asked me to choose if I wanted to continue as a player or be a referee, and I chose refereeing. [It helps in] reading the game, even if it was a long time ago! You know how players react, their tactics, how they move, how they make contact – it’s much easier, in my point of view, if you were involved on the pitch rather than never playing."
After she blows the final whistle on Sunday, Projkovska hopes that her assignment will prove to be a catalyst for further proud footballing moments for North Macedonia: "This will be a good beginning for Macedonian women’s football – I hope they will see my example, and what is possible."