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Women's U19 EURO final referee Klarlund buoyed by big occasion

Members Refereeing

Sunday’s UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship final brings a new career highlight for proud Danish match referee Frida Klarlund.

Referee Frida Klarlund – relishing her debut final
Referee Frida Klarlund – relishing her debut final UEFA via Sportsfile

“I’m so happy – it’s a big thing to be selected for my first international final, and I’m very honoured,” the 33-year-old IT manager from Copenhagen told uefa.com as she stepped up preparations for the big game between Spain and Germany at the Den Dreef Stadium in Leuven, Belgium.

Sunday’s date is the latest accolade on an impressive refereeing adventure that began when Klarlund was a teenager and her sister Trine Westhoff – a former elite referee herself – persuaded her to embark on her career.

“I was 16 years old and part of a family that loved football, and I’d been attending a football school as a player,’ she says. ‘When you got too old to go to the football school, you had the opportunity to go a refereeing school. My sister told me to go there, I took the course, and I became a referee.”

‘I found that refereeing was fun’

“I was the only female participant at the referee course. I didn’t really know about what I was signing up for – but I soon found out for myself that refereeing was fun.”

Klarlund’s progress was rapid, and by the age of 19, higher-level assignments beckoned. In 2009, she moved up into the Danish domestic women's first division before being promoted to assignments in the elite division – a superb achievement for one so young.

Klarlund started refereeing in men’s football as well, taking charge of youth teams first, and she has gradually advanced through the ranks – becoming the first Danish female referee in the domestic men’s second division, as well as making her top-flight Super League debut as a fourth official in September 2022.

Frida Klarlund refereed the Women's U19 EURO group match between Belgium and Germany earlier this month
Frida Klarlund refereed the Women's U19 EURO group match between Belgium and Germany earlier this monthStijn Audooren / Sportpix supplied via the Royal Belgian Football Association

“I don’t find it difficult to referee in the men’s game,” Klarlund reflects. “I’ve been refereeing for a long time, and I think that’s why I have the respect of the players. They know me. Perhaps the only real reaction now is from spectators, who sometimes openly express surprise when they see that a female match official is taking charge of a men’s game.”

Invaluable experiences

The FIFA international badge followed in 2015. Three years later, Klarlund was a member of the referee team at the European women’s Under-17 finals in Lithuania, taking charge of the third-place playoff between England and Finland. In 2019, she was a fourth official at the UEFA women’s Under-19 finals in Scotland.

Many of the Women's U19 EURO referee team who have been on duty in Belgium this month are no strangers to Klarlund, thanks to these previous European final tournament experiences. ‘We were asked to introduce ourselves when we met up for these finals,” she says, “I was pleased to be able to say that I was glad to see so many of the officials again.”

Klarlund describes her refereeing style as a mixture of her own personality and knowledge gained from watching other referees. “You need to believe in yourself and what you’re good at,” she reflects, “but it’s obvious that I’ve learned quite a lot as well from observing experienced international referees.”

Concentration, courage, sound people management and teamwork are all key assets for top referees, as well as the important trait of humility. “You’re only as good as your last game,” Klarlund insists. “And you always have to be ready to do even better in your next game.”

Special fan

A special youngster occupies Klarlund’s time away from football – her six-year-old daughter. “She loves to see me at the stadium,” says the proud mother, “but she’s not a football player at the moment, she likes dancing more!’

Juggling the demands of motherhood, professional life and refereeing presents no great problems for Klarlund. “I’m lucky in particular that my employers allow me full time to commit myself to refereeing,” she says. “I’m very fortunate to have a lot of support around me.”

The Women's U19 EURO final referee team -  referee Frida Klarlund (front) with (back, left to right) assistant referee Emily Carney, fourth official Jelena Cvetković and assistant referee Ceri Louise Williams
The Women's U19 EURO final referee team - referee Frida Klarlund (front) with (back, left to right) assistant referee Emily Carney, fourth official Jelena Cvetković and assistant referee Ceri Louise WilliamsUEFA via Sportsfile

Klarlund, who describes football as her hobby as well as her job, will be accompanied at Sunday’s final by assistant referees Emily Carney (England) and Ceri Louise Williams (Wales), together with fourth official Jelena Cvetković (Serbia).

“We’ll be ready, because you have to be concentrated and confident from the very first minute of a match to the last – you don’t know what will happen. As a referee, it’s clear that I need my team, and we’ll be talking with each other at length before the final to make sure that we’re fully prepared.”

'I won’t be nervous'

Will anything specific go through Frida Klarlund’s mind in the hectic moments before the big final gets underway on Sunday? “Some referees say that the best moment of a match is the final whistle,” she says. “But that’s not my view.”

The best moment is when you line up with the teams - you’re the first to walk out onto the pitch, you see the crowd, you feel the atmosphere. I won’t be nervous – I’ll be thinking about how great it is to be there at that instant…”