UEFA.com talks to referees Anastasia Pustovoitova and Morag Pirie ahead of the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final and third-place play-off.
Article top media content
The referee team at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship have been in excellent form – no doubt helped by the warm weather that has descended on the Lake Geneva region this week – and are making final preparations for tomorrow's gala day at the Colovray stadium in Nyon.
The week comes to an end on Saturday with the final between Spain and the Republic of Ireland, and the third place play-off between the Netherlands and Germany. The referee team has spent the week working hard, relaxing when needed, and bonding as a unit.
Anastasia Pustovoitova of Russia and Scotland's Morag Pirie are the two referees, assisted by Andrea Hima (Hungary), Chrysoula Kourompylia (Greece), Miroslava Obertová (Slovakia) and Viola Raudzina (Latvia). Désirée Grundbacher, from Switzerland, is taking on the equally important role of fourth official. The match officials have formed a dedicated, high-quality fifth team at the final round.
The two referees are relishing the European limelight – although it is not a 'first' for either of them. Anastasia Pustovoitova, from Moscow, actually made the move over from a being a national-team player to refereeing, having been a member of the Russian squad at the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. Morag Pirie, from Aberdeen, was an assistant referee at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals in Switzerland in 2006, running the line in the final.
Pustovoitova will take charge of the eagerly-awaited final, and Morag the crucial play-off which decides who goes to the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago in September. "When I finished playing football. I thought about what I wanted to do, because football was life to me – so I thought about being a referee," Pustovoitova told UEFA.com. "When I was a player, I thought to myself that I'd never be a referee! But when I finished, it started becoming interesting to me."
Pirie said: "I played football, then I started doing coaching course. One of our coaches asked if we could help to referee a childrens' tournament. I refereed and enjoyed it, and a short time after, I saw an advertisement for a referees course. I did the course, and when I finished university, I started refereeing and progressed through the levels."
Both referees stress the need for good, calm preparation. "I like to switch off before a game, you've done the hard training, so you then need to relax," Pirie said, while Pustovoitova added: "I like to sleep well, which is hugely important for referees or players."
The two match officials emphasise the importance of a good first decision in a match. "You set the tone for the players, and it gives you the confidence to get the game going," Pirie explained. Mental preparation is also a must. They agree that a strong mind to block out external influences such as comments from the crowd or players is essential for a good referee.
Pustovoitova and Pirie finish by describing their feelings when they line up before important matches such as those tomorrow. "My heart is pumping when I hear the national anthems, and I tell myself to keep calm," said Pustovoitova . "I thank people like my parents, and I think how I appreciate the chance to be at such a match."
"There's a big sense of pride," Pirie said. "Out of your entire country, you have been picked to represent it a FIFA or UEFA match. It's a huge honour, and your arms tingle when you hear the national anthems."