Kuala Lumpur: Ri Hyang-ok, from DPR Korea, is one of the 12 Asian referees and assistant referees selected to officiate in the FIFA Women’s World Cup which begins in France next week.
And for the former DPR Korea player and experienced referee, it will be her final bow from refereeing duties after officiating in her first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015.
Ri, who also represented her country as a player in two FIFA Women’s World Cup – in 1999 and 2003 – said: “As a player, I represented my country in two FIFA Women’s World Cup, but I didn’t qualify from the group stage. That’s why I decided to become a referee, so my dream is to officiate in the Finals.”
“At the same time, I’m also sad because this will be my final World Cup. I want to retire after this. I love football so I want to stay in football by coaching young referees. I want to see Asian referees improve and become the best referees.
“I have experience as a player playing in the World Cup so I’m not afraid when I’m on the football field. In my first World Cup, I officiated in four difficult matches, but I was never afraid. I took it as a challenge and I was comfortable because I knew where to run and to be in the right positions,” added Ri (pictured below).
Ri will be joined by Qi Liang (pictured below) of China, who will also be a main referee for the second time in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, alongside first-timers Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan and Australian duo Kate Jacewicz and Casey Reibelt.
Qi was delighted to be selected again and welcomed the inclusion of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in this year’s showpiece.
“We’ve attended a lot of seminars to prepare for VAR. I’m comfortable with the inclusion of VAR because it is very useful and it can help us in difficult situations. But we are also very confident in our own abilities.”
The preparations have been challenging for debutants Jacewicz and Yamashita but they believe it has helped them prepare for the biggest stage in women’s football.
Jacewicz said: “AFC has a very strong team going to the Women’s World Cup. It is humbling to be part of a strong and experienced team. They look after us, especially the ones who are first timers. That’s something that you can’t learn in a classroom. It is valuable experience working and training with all of them.”
Yamashita is confident of putting on another strong showing after becoming the first all-female cast to officiate an AFC Cup match earlier this month with assistant referees Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshigori, who are also part of the AFC officials in France.
“The preparations have not been easy because you have to train and prepare yourself physically and mentally. I want to do my best in every match and it is very nice to see so many referees from the AFC being selected. We are always supporting each other, and I believe we perform at our best when we work together.”
Other assistant referees representing the AFC in France are Yan Fang of China, Maiko Hagio of Japan, Hong Kum-nyo of DPR Korea and Kim Kyoung-min and Lee Seul-gi of Korea Republic.
Male referees Christopher Beath, from Australia, and Mohammed Mohamed Abdulla, of the United Arab Emirates, will also assist them in VAR.