Sao Paulo (AFP)

"For me, nothing fell from the sky," Brazilian Edina Alves told AFP, the first female referee to officiate at a major men's competition organized by Fifa, during the World Club Cup which began on Thursday.

"It is a dream to participate in such an event", she declared in January the day after her summons for the competition where she started as 4th referee Thursday in the quarter-final won by the Monterrey Tigers against the South Koreans. from Ulsan Hyundai.

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 this is a consecration for Edina Alves (41) who spent part of her youth filling sacks of soil at dawn in a nursery to pay for her physical education studies.

"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 arise", continues the one who is writing a new page of history in a sport. still judged to be very macho.

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

In Qatar, Edina Alves is the only woman among the seven main referees summoned for the World Club, a competition between the winners of the major club competitions of the six FIFA confederations - except Auckland, champion of Oceania, who forfeited due to the quarantine he should have undergone on his return home - plus the reigning champion of the host country.

- Vocation -

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 the big field, 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 more than ten 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, the Swiss Nicole Petignat had already officiated in the UEFA Cup (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