Referees ● Aug 12, 2012

Meet Ms Abirami, the First Singapore Female Referee to Officiate at a FIFA International Tournament


SINGAPORE, 12 AUGUST 2012: The local refereeing fraternity has been given a shot in the arm when news came through that FAS will be sending its first woman referee to a FIFA international tournament.

Ms Abirami d/o Apbai Naidu, who though is busy in her day job, remains passionate about football and refereeing since her days as a player for the women’s national team.  Ms Abirami, or “Abi” as she prefers to be called, will become the first Singaporean woman referee to be sent to a FIFA international tournament, the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup 2012, and one of only four Asian women referees at the prestigious event.  Despite her busy schedule in her full-time job, Abi finds whatever little time she has in her days off to pursue her passion in football.  She believes good time-management and balancing work and passion are important for referees.

Her path to becoming an Asian Football Conferderation (AFC) Elite Referee, one of only about 20 women referees with this prestigious accolade, was one filled with many obstacles and countless hours of training, one that would not have been possible without passion.  Other than passion, Abi listed humility, honesty and integrity as the key elements to becoming a top referee.  She would like to share this with aspiring young referees, “One has got to remain humble and modest, in order to progress anywhere in life.  As long as you remain humble, you will be able to accept constructive criticism and continue to improve and learn at the same time.  As long as you keep this virtue, you will go far.  Of course, to be a top referee, you also need to be a honest person with lots of integrity.”

Abi is one of very few women referees in Singapore, and she hopes her achievements will help promote refereeing to the public and encourage more ladies to learn the trade.  So, what made her become a referee in the first place?

“I was playing for the Under-19 women’s national team in 1999 before I progressed to the senior women’s team in 2000.  I love playing football and subsequently I ended up working at FAS’ Women’s Football division, helping to organise football clinics for girls.  During such clinics, there will be mini-football games where I had to be the referee.  To do my job better, I took the opportunity to take up referee courses conducted by FAS in 2005.  After playing and refereeing for another 3 years, I had to made a choice on pursuing football or refereeing in 2008.  I decided to focus on refereeing and the rest is history,” said the 29-year-old vivacious lady.

Abi also admits the journey to becoming a FIFA referee, one of only 2 women referees in Singapore to be given the honour, was not easy as she had to balance her full-time work with her refereeing commitments.  But she was glad that she received very good guidance offered by FAS’ Referees’ Executive Mr P. T. Murthi and former FIFA World Cup referee Shamsul Maidin.  “I was very fortunate that there is a strong refereeing structure in place by FAS and that there are such experienced referees to guide me, teach me and train me in my referee’s career.  They took time out to attend the games I officiate in, and give me pointers.  I’ve learnt so much from them and I think I still have much to learn.” said the ever-humble Abi.

Although she is recognised as a top women referee in Asia, Abi did not expect a call-up to officiate at this year’s FIFA under-20 World Cup tournament. “I was shocked and very surprised to receive this appointment.  I couldn’t believe it at first!  But I must say that I am very happy to be able to get this opportunity to officiate at a top FIFA tournament.  After knowing that I’m one of only three Asian referees at the tournament, I am both excited and humbled to be able to represent Asia and Singapore, and I look forward to learning from other top referees from other continents who will be at the tournament.”

She added: “To be surrounded by professional and passionate international referees is something money cannot buy.”

Finally, what is the next milestone for our history-making referee? “I hope to be able to perform at my best at this U20 World Cup and give a good account of myself.  The next step would of course be to officiate at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and I will spare no efforts to work towards that target.  I’m still only 29, so I believe if I continue to work hard and learn from the very best referees, I might have a chance to achieve this dream.”

Abi stressed the ultimate referees’ dream of officiating at FIFA’s World Cup tournaments is not hers alone to achieve, giving this advice to fellow referees: “I think all aspiring referees who wish to one day officiate at the world cup, you need to put in the effort, work really hard, stay humble, and believe in your own abilities.”

But before we ended the interview, she again stressed on her hopes to get more ladies involved in refereeing, saying: “I really hope to see more women referees in Singapore.  It would be good to have a strong team of women referees, and I hope one day we will see a lot of top referees from Singapore, of both gender.”

Ms Abirami will be travelling to Japan on 13th August 2012.