contribution of women to European football

Earlier this year, UEFA launched a new campaign highlight the game-changing impact that women are making on the European football community.

Each month, UEFA is putting the focus on five individuals, whose work is helping to shape the present and future of football – at all levels of the game. Whether on the pitch, in front of the cameras or in the boardroom, each of our featured game-changers has an inspiring story to tell, setting the perfect example for more women and girls to make their own mark in the game.

In our second instalment, we talk to:

• Riem Hussein, the 2021 UEFA Women's Champions League final referee

• Sarah Zadrazil, Bayern player and #WePlayStrong ambassador

• Nora Häuptle, UEFA Pro Licence coach

• Priscilla Janssens, Stadium venue director

• Jessica Carmikli, Beşiktaş player and mother of two

Riem Hussein: 'Refereeing has given me an opportunity. I feel very privileged!'

Dr Riem Hussein will referee the UEFA Women's Champions League final in Gothenburg on Sunday. Of Palestinian heritage, the German has been refereeing since 2005 and for the last six years, has officiated in the men's third tier, as well as featuring at the Women's EURO in 2017 and the Women's World Cup in 2019. She combines refereeing with working as a pharmacist.

How did you become a referee?

I was a striker in Germany's second division, scoring a lot of goals but always complaining a lot to referees and thinking I could do better. So, I decided to show that I could do better and took the refereeing licence, and I enjoyed it so much. I played on Sundays but whenever possible I would referee on Fridays and Saturdays and started to feel I could have a career and go further. For me, referees who were players have a big advantage, because it gives you a feeling for football, but it is important to have the right mentality and to be able to deal with pressure.

You referee both men's and women's football. Is there a difference and how has the women's game developed?

In men's football, the speed and intensity are higher, so it's more demanding physically, and the management of players is different in terms of different characters, but women's matches are becoming more demanding too. Players have better conditions to train and play professionally, so I have seen the standards rise and you can feel there is something growing. As a referee, we have the responsibility towards the players to show we are also in the best shape, and my national association but also UEFA and FIFA help us with fitness, tactical analysis, improving on-field communication systems and introducing VAR – it is a very professional system, so for me there is no difference between approaching men's and women's games.

What advice would you give to a girl thinking about taking up refereeing?

Follow what you feel. Motivation has to come from within you, nobody else can give it to you. If you want to be a referee, it would be great. We need good referees, young referees, people interested in refereeing, and that’s why I would never tell her anything else. As a player, I would never have reached a Women's Champions League final or been involved at such a high level at the age of 40, but refereeing has given me the opportunity to play this important role in big matches – I feel very privileged.

Sarah Zadrazil: 'We can grow our audience massively if we give people more access to watch.'

Sarah Zadrazil is a midfielder for FC Bayern Frauen and Austria. Having taken up the game aged five, she began her career at college in America before returning to the Bundesliga at Turbine Potsdam. She is also an ambassador for UEFA's #WePlayStrong, engaging the next generation of female football fans and players through social media videos alongside her friends and team-mates.

Women's football in America led the way for a long time – has the European game caught up?

"I always dreamed about playing in the States because women's football there was so massive, and it was hard at the beginning but I'm glad I went there – it was a great experience. Football in America has always felt like a women's sport with sold-out stadiums and an amazing atmosphere at matches, and that’s what our aim should be here in Europe. On the pitch, I think we have a better technical quality here now. The game has developed on every level. It got way faster, more physical but also technically and you can see that on the field, the pace is fast, you have to be alert all the time because it's a faster game now."

How else can women’s football in Europe continue to develop?

"We can grow our audience massively if we give people more access to watch the matches on TV. I also think it's important that the game can support smaller clubs to keep the domestic leagues competitive. We can see the different

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