International Women's Day 2014 will be etched in her memory for life as she could not have started her league career on a better day. Former India footballer Maria Rebello from Curtorim, Goa – who trained in refereeing – finally lived her dream and made history by being the first woman to officiate in an I-League match at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Saturday.
Maria, who captained the Indian women's team in 2001 that participated in the AFC women's championship in Chinese Taipei, retired from the sport soon after the team lost but her willingness to stay connected to football made her a referee. Now, she is the only certified female referee in India.
"This day will go a long way in my life," said Maria, who has trained with the Bombay Referees Association and Goa Football Association.
It was in the morning when match commissioner Gulab Chauhan called her up from Gujarat and announced her Women's Day gift.
"I was thrilled when Sir Chauhan said that I would officiate. As I entered the field I was very happy, and initially I was not that confident, but as the match progressed I built confidence," she added.
"I thank my colleagues, Anil Tanwar, Md Kamil and my fourth referee Ranjit Bakshi who boosted my morale. This is the beginning and I have a long way to go. And it is football which has given me everything and this is one way I can give it back to the game," said Maria.
Stopwatch: Pune FC 2 (G Fernandes 14, M Pavlovic 90) drew with Shilong Lajong 2 (Ulliams 26, 70); Mohammedan Sporting 0 drew with Mohun Bagan 0; Bengaluru 3 (S Chhetri 56, 90, R Singh 61) bt Churchill Brothers 0; Dempo 4 (T OZbey 17, 30, Beto 19, C Miranda 26) bt Sporting Goa 0;
Playing today: Salgaocar vs Mumbai FC; Rangdajied United vs United SC