Eleni Antoniou has spoken of her pride at being appointed referee for Monday's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final between Spain and Germany in Borisov.
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UEFA has announced the refereeing team for Monday's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final, with Greek match official Eleni Antoniou proud to be named referee for the Spain-Germany showpiece in Belarus.
A police officer from Athens, Antoniou will head a refereeing team featuring assistant referees Oleksandra Ardasheva and Emilie Aubry, from Ukraine and Switzerland respectively, as well as fourth official Vera Opeykina of Russia. "I trust in my team," she said.
Antoniou told UEFA.com she hopes the appointment will "pave the way for more opportunities". "I feel proud to be refereeing at this final tournament and I have a good team for this final," said the 31-year-old, who has been on the FIFA list since January 2014 and normally handles matches in the Greek women's top flight and men's third division. "Everything has been excellent here. This is a first final tournament for me and it has been very good for my career."
Though she has regularly taken charge of qualification games at European Women's Under-19 and WU17 levels, this latest assignment at the Borisov-Arena eclipses her fourth-official posting for the 2014 UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final between Turbine Potsdam and Wolfsburg. It also caps an invaluable experience as part of the 16-strong refereeing squad at these finals.
"I have taken this opportunity to learn from the UEFA people here and to make improvements for the future," said the mother of two young boys. "We've had a lot of good advice from the observers. There's been a good spirit and togetherness between the girls, both in training and back at the hotel."
For UEFA Referees Committee member Bo Karlsson, Eleni and her colleagues – all third-category referees – have shown great promise for the future. "We can see them refereeing at the higher level in the future," he said. "We have had some crucial decisions here and the outcome has been correct."
As part of their development, every refereeing team has had its own post-match debriefing, though Karlsson has been careful not to overload the officials. "The referees were given instructions before the tournament and also had a fitness check. Then, if there is a trend, we discuss that with the whole group – some general comments when needed.
"The highest they have done until now is mostly WU19 elite round," continued the man tasked with overseeing the refereeing operation here in Minsk. "We started with six referees and eight assistants plus two fourth officials from the host country for the group stage. Then we kept four referees and four assistants for the rest of the tournament."
The other four remaining officials – namely Portuguese referee Ana Aguiar, assistant referees Kristina Yanashkevich and Bianca Scheffers of Kazakhstan and the Netherlands respectively, and fourth official Tess Olofsson from Sweden – have been appointed to supervise the third-place play-off between England and Norway in Minsk earlier on Monday. Olofsson and Opeykina refereed the semi-finals.