Football is usually guys’ game and passion and girls who enjoy watching matches of Champions’ league are quite rare. They usually don’t play it either (not in Serbia) so girl who is a football referee on a field full of guys is something you don’t see every day. Kristina Krstić (22) from Niš is one of them. She is a referee on matches of Niš zone (4th league for men), First and second national league for women and games of junior teams. Besides being successful in typically male career she is also a senior year journalism student on the Faculty of philosophy in Niš. She shared her story how she manages to do all that.
How long have you been a football referee?
5 years now. In February 2008 I started a course for football referees and in few months I became a beginner. For starters I worked only with junior teams but soon, 3 months after I finished the course and made progress to seniors. At the age of 17 I was the referee in the First national league for women and I was one of the youngest girls on the referee list.
What made you become a referee?
Love for football for sure, I love this sport since I was little. I love it so much that sometimes I find myself in that typically male sentence „Football is the most important secondary thing in the world“. Also, I wanted to show everyone that women can share justice at the stadium just like men. Living on the Balkans and being in, lets say „male“ sport is not forbidden but it’s not encouraged. That was my motive to show that we are all equal and that a woman can be a football referee if she wants just like guys can dance ballet, why not. Being a referee is honorable and honest job and it’s most important to be fair, fair to the game, to the sport. If you are not that, than you are not for this job, so natural female sense of justice was my third motive.
How do people react when they see a woman on the field?
Just like in an old Serbian saying „100 people, 100 temperaments“. There were both positive and negative experiences. Some people are really impressed when they see a lady on the field while some don’t understand why a girl „sticks her nose“ where it doesn’t belong. Sometimes when I am just an assistant referee it happens that audience starts yelling „Give her a whistle“ which is great satisfaction. Then I feel proud. On the other hand there was a lot of comments and insults and those are the moments when sport, football and me loose the battle.
Could you share some funny story from your career?
Considering that I am in this profession for a long time there were all kinds of situations. Usually I get comments that make people laugh like „Go home, take care of the kids and make lunch“, „you don’t need a flag but a ladle and the rolling pin“. For me the funniest moment of my career happened 2 years ago. I still clearly remember that day, it was 42. minute of the game and after one fault I heard some guy from the audience yelling „Referee is female?!“. It took him a while to notice the alien on the field. It was cute because he was genuinely surprised. They say that the best referee is the one who is invisible during the match so I think of this comic situation as something rather positive and I often tell this story.
Did it ever happen that players don’t take you seriously because you are a girl?
Players like players. I don’t care so much about their reactions because we are all there to do our jobs the best we can. In the beginning they also didn’t understand what is a girl doing on the field so some of them tried to communicate with me with a dose of humor. As they got to know me better they realized that I am a pure professional and that for me field is not a place to joke. I think it’s all about my attitude. We can joke and chat before and after the match but during the game they all know what is fault, what is panel and what is offside. That’s where all the talking stops and football beings!
How do you balance your duties as a referee and a senior year journalism student?
I have to say that beside being a referee and a student I am also working as an editor of Sport section in the student newspapers (Studentski dnevni list) and I am the spokesperson of water polo team Nais from Niš. It’s very hard to balance all that but when you love something with all your heart everything is possible. Weekend is for games and my journalism job. From Monday it’s time for classes and practices. If classes are in the morning practices have to be in the afternoon and vice versa. Practices are mandatory and I have to find time for them at least 3 times a week. I study during the night, after a long day it’s easiest to relax with a book, even if those are school books, it’s important that I learn something new. When I get too tired of everything I take one afternoon off and go for a massage and coffee with friends and that always puts me back on track.