Kateryna Monzul is savouring her appointment to referee the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 final – an important accolade for the Ukrainian match official amid many other significant life experiences this year.
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The 41-year-old official from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine will lead out the two finalists, England and Germany, for Sunday’s big occasion in front of a huge crowd at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium.
Monzul endured a difficult period earlier this year when war broke out in Ukraine, and she decided to leave her country.
Now, her date at Wembley on Sunday is the latest honour on an outstanding refereeing CV that includes the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, the 2014 UEFA Women’s Champions League final and the 2016 Olympic Games.
The eagerly-awaited final will be her fourth on-field assignment at the EURO in England following duty at two group stage matches – Spain-Finland (Group B) and Austria-Norway (Group A), as well as the Sweden-Belgium quarter-final.
‘When a dream you have comes true’
“This is a really emotional moment for me, and I’m enjoying it,” says Monzul, who started out as an international referee in 2004. “My heart is already beating fast. It’s the moment when a dream you have comes true.”
“But I must say that it’s also a moment where I feel responsibility, because I’ll be refereeing an important football game.”
The call to tell her loved ones back in Ukraine about her selection for the final was a moment of immense joy and pride. “When I heard their happy and positive response,” Monzul recalls, “I realised how important it was for them as well as for myself.”
Monzul has seen duty at four EURO tournaments and three FIFA Women’s World Cups. She is confident that her vast experience of refereeing major football occasions in both women’s and men’s football will serve her well in what is sure to be a vibrant and pulsating atmosphere as two outstanding teams chase European glory.
“It will be the biggest crowd for a match that I’ve refereed,” she says. “But once the game starts, you close out what is around you, and you concentrate on refereeing the match.”
A champion team
Monzul will be accompanied by an experienced team at Wembley. Her compatriot Maryna Striletska and Paulina Baranowska (Poland) will be her assistants once more, and the fourth official, France’s Stéphanie Frappart, stands alongside Monzul as one of the renowned names in women’s refereeing in Europe and beyond.
Karolin Kaivoja (Estonia) is the reserve assistant referee, and crucial decision-making support will be provided, if necessary, by the video assistant referee Paolo Valeri (Italy) and VAR assistants Maurizio Mariani (Italy) and Pol Van Boekel (Netherlands)
Monzul emphasises the necessity of effective refereeing teamwork in the high-stakes, high-pace modern-day game. “When we perform well, we win as a team,” she insists. “We are as one – and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Women’s football – ‘better and better’
As a referee of long standing, Monzul has also observed the huge evolution of women’s football at close hand, and she has been able to adapt to the constant progress that the game has enjoyed. “Each year has brought a step forward,” she reflects. “[Women’s football] keeps getting better and better.”
“As a referee, there’s obviously a big difference from when I started internationally in 2004 – physical preparation is different now, there are programmes that we follow to help us get fitter and faster, and of course the technical and tactical preparation we do on teams and players is absolutely essential.”
Women’s EURO 2022 has seen records smashed and new benchmarks set for the future. “I’m extremely proud to have been part of this event,” Monzul explains. “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s also been a really positive experience to be together with the other referees – we’re like a big family. We’ve supported each other and shared information all the time.”
The moment now approaches when Monzul will step out onto the turf at the iconic Wembley venue, ready to blow the first whistle and set in motion what every football fan hopes will be a final for the ages.
“I’m not sure, to be honest, how I’ll feel when I walk out onto the pitch and there’s the crowd, the atmosphere – I’ll tell you how I felt afterwards,” she laughs.
“But I do know that my heart will be beating quickly when we line up for the national anthems…and that will signal the moment that I’ll really know that the match is finally here…” After her eventful spring, Kateryna Monzul deserves to play her part in a match to remember.