New Zealand referees make history at OFC Champions League tournament

New Zealanders Anna-Marie Keighley and Sarah Jones have created history by becoming the first female referees to officiate at a men’s OFC Champions League finals tournament.

Keighley refereed Thursday’s pool game between Ifira Black Bird and AS Pirae in Port Vila, while Jones was an assistant referee for the match.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Main photo: Anna-Marie Keighley in control of the pool game between Ifira Black Bird and AS Pirae. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

After the match, Keighley told OFC Media: “It was a great opportunity for us to keep building towards the FIFA Women’s World Cup (in New Zealand and Australia this July and August).

“Football at the Oceania level is another step in our pathway, and it’s different from what we’re used to at home, different from women’s football and different again when you’re refereeing in the islands when it’s really hot and physically draining.

“Overall, lots of new experiences and a great opportunity to continue working and developing the craft of refereeing.”

Jones said: “I felt really excited to be there yesterday, walking out, taking it all in, embracing the moment.

“Obviously, we’ve never been there at that level before, so it was a really cool opportunity to be able to do that and soak in everything – the atmosphere, the heat, the fast pace of the game, the different situations that we experienced during the game.”

Officials for the Ifira Black Bird v AS Pirae match. From left, assistant referee Isaac Trevis, fourth official Ben Aukwai, referee Anne-Marie Keighley and assistant referee Sarah Jones. Photo: Kirk Corrie / Phototek.

Keighley said that while women referees had been involved in an Oceania men’s competition before, the current tournament was the first time at the finals championship stage.

“We’ve definitely been supported in that sense and been given opportunities where we’ve worked hard to prove we can operate at that elite level,” she said.

“We’re both heading to the FIFA Women’s World Cup and I’d love to be involved all the way through to the end of that tournament.

“Like any official going to those landmark world events, your goal is to be around at the end of the event and still be involved actively on the field. My sights are set high, but, in saying that, just being involved in our third women’s World Cup is a privilege.

“Hopefully, we can inspire some more women to get involved in refereeing and prove it’s okay to be out there refereeing among men.”

READ MORE: Full interview with Keighley and Jones >>>>

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