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Serious about her sport

International Football referee Gillian Martindale was the first female Barbadian referee at a FIFA World Cup. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.) Gillian Martindale on the football field. (FP)

By Anesta Henry | Wed, October 31, 2012 - 10:30 AM

There is no reason why a Barbados football team should not represent the country at the World Cup or Olympic stages of the game, says FIFA international referee Gillian Martindale.

But first, all local stakeholders must adapt to a higher level of “seriousness” and technicality, this week’s WEDNESDAY WOMAN argues.

Martindale speaks from her vast knowledge, and experience from representing the Caribbean Football Union and CONCACAF at the recently held FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.    

Martindale, who has been refereeing two sports since 2005, acknowledging her love for the sports and also the demand for local female referees, said she was proud to be the first Barbadian official who had the opportunity to be in a FIFA competition at the World Cup.

“That was my first FIFA competition but the level of professionalism was excellent. They expect perfection in everything you do; the way you walk, the way you talk, how you dress, how you interact with your players, colleagues and FIFA staff,” said an ecstatic Martindale who is also an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) referee.

She said: “The training was very intense. We went into a training camp six days before the tournament. We got up around 6 a.m. and training was from around 9 a.m. We did technical training, physical training, and psychological training. FIFA does not play when it comes to training.”

The 38-year-old who has had an impressive refereeing career, officiating at many finals throughout the Caribbean and in Central and North America, commended the level of respect displayed by the teams and FIFA officials at the World Cup.   

“The level of respect from players was always there because a lot of them play for clubs in their countries and their countries have a high level of competition. The players at that level usually feed off of the attitude of their coaches and technical staff.

“So once the coaches and technical staff conduct themselves in a respectful manner, the players will do the same and there will be no problems. Before the tournament, the referees go and meet with the team and lay down the rules and behavioural expectations before the game,” she said, noting that the language barrier was one of the “small” issues she was faced with.

As for applying her experience to enhance herself, colleagues and the overall sport in Barbados, Martindale said she was ready to do it. Her dream is to see a Barbadian football team attend a World Cup and she is ready to start the journey.

“People say that Barbados football is scrappy and not as technical as the world. But I think that a referee’s job is to be the best referee he or she could be.

“Yes, we have FIFA instructors here in Barbados but there is more to the instructions. We need to get that level of seriousness and professionalism into football in Barbados.

“One of the most important things is that the seriousness of the sport and the level of professionalism must be passed on from the Barbados Football Association to the child who is five years old that has an interest in the game,” she said.

“I believe that if I, as a referee, can go to a World Cup, Barbados can have a team going to the World Cup too.”

When it comes to this Spiritual Baptist’s personal goals, she aspires to be a FIFA football referee at the 2016 Olympic Games.

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