Referee Deidre Mitchel made history when she became the first woman to officiate a men’s Premier Soccer League match on Sunday 22 April 2007, in a tough clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Santos in Port Elizabeth.
And Mitchel had no hesitation laying down the law firmly, dishing out four yellow cards to the visitors, and another one to Santos, as the Capetonian team came back from a goal down to clinch the tense encounter 3-1.
While acknowledging that their team did not play to their potential, the Kaizer Chiefs website’s match report referred to ‘Refereeing inconsistencies’.
“Oh,” a confident Mitchel told gsport. “It wasn’t my first game I officiated for men, I’ve been around the block, so I don’t worry about what other people are thinking or saying.”
And was she running around with excitement at achieving such a significant benchmark? “Nothing special,” she responds calmly, “It was an achievement, but it was a game like any other game.”
Speaking to the Head of National Development in the SAFA Referee’s Department, gsport learned of the confidence her boss Carlos Henriques had in her: “Yes, the performance I think was great, I’ve already spoken to the match commissioner, I’ve spoken to some of the officials, they’re all very happy.
“If we feel that a woman is equal to any man, then why not? We don’t see a problem, as long as they’ve going through the same tests, it’s no problem. The appointment committee is confident, so was the technical committee in giving her the game, so they knew she will go out there, and she will perform.”
And the reaction to Mitchel’s first PSL match? “Congratulations, yes, the phone has not stopped this morning (laughs), I’ve just been attending to newspapers, radio and so on the whole morning, I haven’t done anything else, apart from this.”
Henriques believes that prospects for women referees are growing. “Well, actually we do have a lot of women refereeing at the Vodacom second division level, in which some of them are only doing men, which is quite a good thing, no?
“In a few year’s time,” adds Henriques, “We might add another two or three, in the middle of the park. We do have another three ladies on the international panel.”
Congratulations, Deidre Mitchel, you are a hallmark of the dedication, capacity and quality of South Africa’s women in sport!