I grew up playing football. I was adopted from China when I was one and many of my extended family are passionate about the game. I’m an active person and have always enjoyed being on the pitch more than watching. Throughout my childhood I played football every day at school and after-school clubs, where girls were always the minority and sometimes I was the only one. I particularly liked the Kinnerz Coaching holiday clubs which were all about inclusivity and opportunities.
I had never thought of refereeing until a couple years back, when I was 16. I needed a job, but was not keen on washing dishes, and am not one for staying still or inside. My cousin Sean, who is a year older than me, had been talking about his refereeing, the challenges and the rewards. On the spur of the moment, I signed up for a course (free for girls) that started four days later. After finishing the practical lessons with Sam Anderson I needed to referee five games, but was still playing for Milton on Saturday mornings. This left me the option of refereeing open-age female games on Sunday afternoons. On the course, Sam introduced Stacey Fullicks as the best women’s referee in the county, and she kindly took me to one of her games so I could see what it was like.
Before my own first game as a referee, my mentor Richard Fullicks gave me a pep talk which helped me focus. This was just as well, because it was a rough match, with a lot of lip from players and supporters. But Richard encouraged me at half-time and that made the second half more manageable. I still came off the pitch shocked at the difficulties a referee has to face, especially when working with women older and louder than me. The next four games gradually improved, I refereed every week after that, and my confidence grew especially after a women’s development event at St George’s Park. That day I met other girls who enjoy the role just as much as I do and who have become some of my closest mates. This sense of community, which we have among referees as much as within teams, is one of my favourite parts. Every game also brings its own tests which motivates me.
This season I’ve been playing for Histon Ladies and Hills Road, so have been refereeing youth football on Saturday mornings. This has brought different challenges, especially the comments from some of the parents. Fortunately, these come from enthusiasm boiling over and I have not experienced racism or sexism. In fact, the majority of the teams, coaches and parents have been very friendly. Of course, COVID-19 cut the season short and I can’t wait for it to restart and to see how I can progress in this career.