With women’s football becoming increasingly popular in the Arab world, it comes as no surprise to see more women taking up refereeing and officiating their games.
One woman, by the name of Doumouh Al Bakkar, has gone a step further, however, making history by officiating several men’s games after becoming one of the leading referees of women’s football in Lebanon.
Al Bakkar started out as a player before concentrating on coaching. 2014 would be a turning point in the life of the young Lebanese woman after she attended a “Referees of Tomorrow” training course organised by her national football association. Enthralled from the very start, six years on she remains as passionate as ever about the profession.
Asked how she went from being a player to a coach and finally a referee, Al Bakkar told FIFA.com: “I participated in the “Referees of Tomorrow” course in 2014. It was a new challenge for me in the world of football and I wanted to gain new skills. At that time, I liked the idea of taking charge of games, making sure they ran smoothly and developing myself more in the world of football.”
She also refereed matches in the qualifiers for the AFC U-16 and U-19 Women’s Championships and the qualifiers for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, as well as several women’s tournaments in West Asia and women’s fixtures in Bahrain, UAE, Lebanon and Jordan.
Al Bakkar’s excellent work earned her an international badge in 2016, allowing her to become one of the most prominent female referees in Asia. She then officiated in several friendly men’s games in addition to some second-division fixtures and youth tournaments.
Asked about the differences between taking charge of women’s and men’s games, Al Bakkar said: “Women’s matches are different from men’s in terms of level, player experience and tactics.
Football used to be a men’s sport. They, therefore, have much more experience and play many more games, which has an impact on the standard, performance and playing style.
“This, in turn, requires more physical effort, a different way of moving around the pitch, and a distinct refereeing style. I wouldn’t say men’s games are more difficult – in fact, they’re easier in terms of reading the game – but they require firm management and a strong personality.”
“I support every girl who loves football and wants to get into refereeing. I never hesitate to offer help and share my knowledge and experience with those I meet to encourage them to follow the same path.”
Seeking Further Success
Al Bakkar’s success took on an international dimension when she participated in the Summer Universiade Chinese Taipei 2017. There she officiated several games in the women’s football tournament, including the quarter-final between Canada and Brazil, before being chosen as part of the refereeing team for the final between Brazil and Japan.
Unsurprisingly, she has fond memories of that tournament. “The Japan-Brazil final has been the most notable game of my career to date. It was my first experience refereeing outside Lebanon. There were lots of fans, and the style of play was very different. I still remember that wonderful feeling to this day,” she recalled.
“I worked hard to be selected for the final and managed to make it happen. I learned that perseverance pays off and I developed a much deeper love for the game,” she added.
Al Bakkar aspires to make a name for herself internationally and hopes that one day a Lebanese woman will officiate at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ – something she thinks will inevitably happen.
“We want to represent Lebanon at the World Cup and I hope I can personally do this. However, if I can’t, I’m certain another female referee will make the finals because we’re learning and getting better at the job, and one day the opportunity will arise.”
Asked about her future goals, Al Bakkar concluded the interview by saying: “I want to succeed and make a good name for myself in Asia so that I can referee finals and then take part in the World Cup. It’s a long journey that requires enormous perseverance.”
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