Sao Paulo (AFP)

"For me, nothing has fallen from the sky", explains to AFP the Brazilian Edina Alves who will become next month in Qatar the first woman referee to lead a meeting of a major competition organized by Fifa, during the World Cup. clubs (February 1-11).

"It's a dream to participate in such an event," she said the day after her summons for the competition where she might have to referee the stars of Bayern Munich, winner of the last Champions League.

This is a new step taken for women's refereeing, two months after the unprecedented appointment of French Stéphanie Frappart to referee the Champions League match Juventus Turin-Dynamo Kiev (3-0) on December 2.

And it is a consecration for Edina Alves (40) who spent part of her youth filling sacks of soil at dawn in a nursery to pay for her studies in Physical Education.

"I worked very hard. I have been a referee for twenty years and I have always prepared myself as well as possible for the day when such an opportunity would present itself," she continues.

With her assistants Neuza Back and Mariana de Almeida, she will be able to write a new page of history in a sport still considered very macho.

Switzerland Esther Staubli and Uruguayan Claudia Umpiérrez had already refereed men's FIFA tournaments, but in the youth categories (Under-17 World Cup).

In Qatar, Edina Alves will be the only woman among the seven main referees summoned for the Club World Cup, a competition between seven continental champions in a knockout event.

- Vocation -

"There is still a lot of work to do, we have a lot of training and physical exams planned," said this young woman who keeps smiling even when she gives yellow cards in matches of the first division men.

Born in Goioerê, in a rural area of ​​the state of Parana (south), near the border with Paraguay, Edina Alves began her professional career as a referee in 2000, after playing futsal for several years.

At home, few girls played soccer.

As it was complicated to find eleven players for tournaments on a large pitch, Edina naturally turned to futsal, which is played with five.

“I played for the city team but there was no professional women's football in the region,” she laments.

In 1999, when the young woman worked during the day and took evening classes, an invitation would change her life: called in as a backup to be an assistant during an amateur match, she had her first contact with refereeing.

A vocation was born.

After having alternated for 14 years the functions of main referee and assistant, Edina Alves settled permanently in the center of the field in 2014.

In May 2019, she became the first woman to referee an elite men's match in Brazil since 2005, during the Brasileirao meeting between CSA and Goias.

- Line of pioneers -

Since then, this seasoned referee has 13 first division shocks to her credit.

And during the 2019 Women's World Cup, in France, Edina Alves officiated during four meetings, including the semi-final between England and the United States (2-1 victory for the Americans).

"Fifa does not take into account gender, only capacities. It is football at the highest level and all women are ready to respond," launches the referee, who is part of a line of pioneers at the whistle.

In addition to Stéphanie Frappart, who had also refereed the 2019 European Men's Supercup between Liverpool and Chelsea (2-2 ap, 5-4 tab), the Swiss Nicole Petignat had already officiated in a UEFA Cup meeting (ancestor of the Europa League) in 2003.

And the German Bibiana Steinhaus was the first to referee in a major men's championship in Europe, the Bundesliga, in 2017.

But Edina Alves does not want to stop there and is already dreaming of the Tokyo Olympics this summer, where both men's and women's football tournaments are planned.

“Everyone wants to go and I'm working hard for it,” she says.

© 2021 AFP