We are delighted to induct the first female into the Viktor Leonkenko Hall of Fame and our second referee (joining Myroslav Stupar) – Kateryna Monzul!
Born on the 5th of July in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Kateryna Volodymyrivna Monzul spent her childhood in the small village of Babai. It was at the age of just 6 when she took to the field and unsurprisingly it wasn’t a referee that she wanted to be straight away.
Helped by the fact that the house she lived in was next to the stadium, she would often wake up and go straight out to the pitch. With her love for the game growing, she soon started to follow it on TV too.
With no such thing as women’s football in the region, she grew up playing for various teams in her village, in the men’s leagues. As a right-winger, it would have been undoubtedly difficult for her, as the voices from the side-lines were not always positive with the fact there was a girl playing in a male team. Not rising to it, she seemed to have dealt with her critics well and as she stated “I did not pay them any attention! Anywhere I had the opportunity to play – I played.”
At the still young age of 18 she was faced with a big decision. Carry on playing, or take up refereeing. Her decision may have slightly been swayed as her uncle was a referee, as well as her godmothers husband who also had links to refereeing. And so, it was here where it began. Under her families supervision she ‘gave it a go’ so to speak and enjoyed it. Decision made – referring was now her path.
Passing a FIFA physical test, she then worked on the theory and brushed up on the laws of the game. Successfully passing all her exams, she was then able to start officiating matches. Of course, she wasn’t refereeing straight at the top, but she found herself back at the same level she played at, only this time officiating matches in regional youth leagues.
Only after recommendations from the FFU (Football Federation of Ukraine) she started to work her way up the leagues. Moving away from the regional leagues, Monzul soon found herself officiating nationwide competitions. With the FFU recommendations continuing to come, she then took charge of amateur league matched, before initially working as an assistant referee in the second division of Ukraine’s football league.
On the 20th November 2004 she officiated her first match at a professional level, which was an unforgettable debut. The third division match between Shakhtar-3 and Vorskla-2 had to be postponed at half time due to some severely heavy fog.
Monzul continued to climb the ranks, and little under a year later, she was on the international scene. September 24th, 2005 saw her debut international between Finland and Poland. However, back home, she seemed to have hit a stumbling block. Monzul looked into the possibility of officiating at the highest level of football in Ukraine, but her application was denied by the FFU due to there not being a complete training package.
Nevertheless, not one to shy away or be beaten, Monzul received her refereeing licence in 2011 and took charge of her first match in the Ukrainian First League between FC Odesa v Krymteplitsa. It was in this same year, she appeared at the woman’s World Cup in Germany.
Having broken down some many barriers and achieved so much already, she was given responsibility by UEFA to take charge of the 2014 woman’s Champions League final in Lisbon. In the same year she was voted as second best female referee in the world as by the IFFHS (International Federations of Football History & Statistics.
A year later Monzul opened and closed the World Cup in Canada as she awarded a controversial penalty in the first match, and walked the USA and Japan out for the final of the woman’s World Cup in Canada. To finish the year off in style, she bettered her 2014 position of second best referee in the world to take top spot – winning by some margin.
1 – Kateryna MONZUL (Ukraine) 114 points
2 – Bibiana STEINHAUS (Germany) 35 points
3 – Esther STÄUBLI (Switzerland) 34 points
The man considered the best referee of all time (Pierluigi Collina) and now head of referees for the FFU was one of the first to pass on his congratulations to Monzul. Her reply when asked did he get in touch with you? – “Yes. It was nice to hear from him. His kind words and best wishes.”
Her path from debut to the top flight in the Ukrainian Premier League took 11 years, which as you have read did not come without its challenges. Add to that, that she speaks fluent English and has a degree in architecture and town planning from Kharkiv National Academy of Minicipal Economy she is certainly not your average referee.
Having reached the pinnacle of club and international football, as well as being voted the best, one may wonder where next for Monzul. Not one to rest on her laurels, she has now set her sights on the Olympics and quite modestly improving as a professional.
Regardless of laws, the beautiful game would not be able to take place without the officials. Whether we agree or disagree with their decisions, at times want to punch the hell out of a referee or hug and kiss them, their job is not for the weak as they take an enormous amount of criticism.
Kateryna Volodymyrivna Monzul please find yourself a very worthy seat in the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Not only being Ukraine’s first female referee, Ukraine’s first ‘Best female referee in the world’, but being the first female inductee in the VLHOF!
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