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WU17 summons stirs ambition for referee duo

WU17 referees Ivana Martinčić and Ivana Projkovska tell UEFA.com about their past lives as players, taking charge of men's matches and their officiating dreams.

Referees Ivana Projkovska and Ivana Martinčić are making final tournament debuts in Iceland
Referees Ivana Projkovska and Ivana Martinčić are making final tournament debuts in Iceland ©Sportsfile

Two of the 16-strong refereeing team at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, Croatia's Ivana Martinčić and Ivana Projkovska from FYR Macedonia have quite a lot in common. Not only are they among the continent's most promising female match officials, the Ivanas also share a name, an age – 29 – and big ambitions for their whistle-blowing careers. Ahead of Wednesday's semi-finals in Reykjavik, UEFA.com put the same five questions to the Balkan duo ...

UEFA.com: You were both promising players before moving into refereeing. How did that come about?

Ivana Martinčić: I played football for ten years, including four years in the top women's division in Croatia. Then, at 23, something switched in my head and I decided to go for a referee course. My father, who was a referee too, had asked me when I was 15 if I'd be interested in refereeing but at the time I only wanted to play football.

Ivana Projkovska: I would probably still be in the FYR Macedonia national team now as I'm only 29 – and represented my country at every age group – but in the first and second Macedonian women's divisions it is not possible to be both player and referee in the same season. So I decided to be a referee, also because as a ref you are the only person responsible for your performance, whereas playing it was a team job for the 11 on the pitch.

UEFA.com: What is the status of women's refereeing in your country at the moment?

Projkovska: In FYR Macedonia we have only two FIFA-licensed female referees so there's not a lot of competition. I officiate regularly at first and second division matches for men too, even more so at Macedonian Cup matches.

Martinčić: We have seven girls with the FIFA badge – three as referee and four as assistant ref. I often referee Croatian men's third division games while my more experienced colleague Vesna Budimir is already in the second league. I believe women refs will soon be operating in men's top flight.

UEFA.com: You are both 29 and are among the six referees for this final tournament. Has this experience boosted your ambitions?

Projkovska: Of course, but we have to progress step by step. I believe that, sooner or later, there will be senior UEFA matches for me.

Martinčić: This is my first major UEFA tournament and I'm really excited. You've got to aim high, and I think in the near future I will get some UEFA matches with a complete Croatian refereeing team, meaning four girls together.

UEFA.com: Would you rather oversee a men's or a women's match?

Martinčić: Honestly speaking, I generally prefer men's games. Sometimes in women's matches the ball is less controlled. With men, the contacts are cleaner, the passes more predictable, so it can be easier for a referee.

Projkovska: Yes, it is more difficult to read a game played by women. Also, we get even more respect from the men. In fact, in FYR Macedonia clubs increasingly want women referees assigned to their matches.

UEFA.com: What impressions will you take from these WU17 finals in Iceland?

Projkovska: I would really like to thank UEFA for giving me this opportunity. I had been a fourth official at the WU19 EURO five years ago in my home country, but this is a new major step in my career. We are a great team of referees here, and the whole organisation has been first class.

Martinčić: It is a great privilege for me to be here in Iceland. I hope everyone has been satisfied with my work. UEFA has really taken care of us and this is a very important message for me. What's more, Iceland is really a beautiful country and we've quickly acclimatised, even to the weather.