Four years in the making… ‘goalie’ referee Oh’s World Cup dreams

I didn’t need to see her face or hear her voice to know. The texts sent after a night of procrastination had the exhilaration of someone who has realized a dream.

Referee Oh Hyun-jung, 35, is making his World Cup debut as an on-field judge. She will blow the whistle for the Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup Group C match against Spain-Zambia at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on Sept. 26.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Oh said in a written interview with reporters on Friday, “but when I step onto the field with the players, all my hard work will go through my head like a flashlight.

Oh is best known for his role in the sports entertainment program “Goalies,” but he has already had an illustrious career as an international referee.

Not only has she officiated at the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica in 2014 and India in 2022, but she also won the Korea Football Association’s Female Referee of the Year award in 2017. This year, she received an invitation to the World Cup, which is reserved for the world’s best referees. It will be the first time in 12 years that a Korean referee has officiated at a World Cup since Cha Sung-mi at the 2011 tournament in Germany. Oh made up for the fact that he was shortlisted to officiate in France four years ago.

“It’s better for my parents to be happy,” Oh said. “They’ve been silently supporting me when I’ve been a referee. Now that I’ve been assigned to officiate, I want to show my parents what I’m capable of, because this might be my last World Cup.” Even experienced referees react differently to fans who are unhappy with a call and worry about hurting their families.

Oh believes in his efforts. He started officiating in men’s soccer instead of women’s in March, starting with the Cheonan-Bucheon match in the K League 2, and has since adjusted to the faster pace. “I’m paying attention to the details of women’s soccer, which has become more advanced in this tournament, but I’m also making sure to analyze thoroughly in case of unexpected situations,” he says.

Her colleagues, who have been working together since the World Cup referees’ base camp at Sydney Olympic Park in Australia, also trust her. She will officiate the match alongside assistant referees Lee Seul-ki and Park Mi-sook. It will be the first time in history that three Korean women referees will serve as the head and assistant referees for a World Cup match.

“We want to finish the game well with good teamwork, filling in each other’s gaps,” Oh said.

If Oh does well in the Spain-Zambia match, she will have a chance to take the whistle in the round of 16 and beyond. It’s the same way soccer players aren’t satisfied with just making it to the World Cup.

However, unlike athletes who can break the ceiling with their performance, referees have to wait for the will of the heavens. Even if they get high marks for fair officiating, referees are often sent home if their country’s players do well. Oh’s future could be determined by the performance of the South Korean women’s soccer team, led by 메이저놀이터 coach Colin Bell, 62.

But even if he doesn’t make it to the next level, Oh wants to see the team perform well. He said, “If the team enters the tournament with a good performance, I will go home with happy feet. Although I will be in New Zealand, not Australia, where the Korean players will be competing, I will continue to support them from afar.”

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