Mitchell whistles male dominace out
Soccer referee Deidre Mitchell has become the first woman to officiate in South Africa's elite league.
The Port Elizabeth-born Mitchell, whose major goal is to referee at the Women's World Cup, executed her duties with pride when she handled the Castle Premiership game between Kaizer Chiefs and Santos in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Chiefs lost 3-1.
Many believed that she would be intimidated by the big crowd. But instead she showed lots of guts and took her job in her stride. She also showed five players yellow cards, four of them from Chiefs and one from Santos.
"I feel honoured by the confidence shown to me by Safa and I'm looking forward to continue to give a good account of myself in the game.
"It was the first time I handled a game of such magnitude, but I was not intimidated. I believe that was through the grace of God," she said.
"In fact, I concentrated on the game and told myself that I was going to do my best. It is one of the greatest achievements for me to officiate at big matches and I'm looking forward to handling a number of others in the near future."
Mitchell was swarmed by Chiefs players at half-time. When asked whether they were asking for her cellphone number, she laughed and said: "No"
Mitchell started playing soccer in 1993. Though her grandmother was strict, she would slip out to play.
"It has always been my wish to kick the pigskin and I enjoyed playing the game and refereeing," she said.
Safa's national referees development officer Carlos Henriques said they were grooming a number of women referees in the country.
Two of them are assistant referees Baitsi Manca and Titi Matankiso, who are on the PSL panel.
"Mitchell is an international referee, she had been officiating in the Mvela Golden League," said Henriques.
She has also officiated in games in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"This time we thought of throwing her into the deep end to make her a better referee."