Forget about wolf whistles. For the first time, there will be three women whistling at the men in the M-League season this year.
Rita Gani, Nur Akmal Anuar and Nurul Ain Izatty Zainal will be making their debuts as match officials in the league.
Policewoman Rita, 43, is a seasoned ref in women’s football. She was named the Best Women’s Referee in Asia in 2014 and has years of experience officiating matches, including at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
She will be handling her first men’s top-flight football match soon.
Nur Akmal, from Negri Sembilan, will be operating as assistant referee in the Super League and Premier League.
The 22-year-old Nurul Ain who has been refereeing matches since 2012 when she was 14, will be officiating the President’s Cup and Youth Cup matches.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) referees’ committee chairman ACP Md Dali Wahid said the trio are among 30 referees who passed the assessment to officiate in the M-League.
Dali added that FAM’s referee department had been preparing match officials since last November and their last referee training course was held last week.
“We started early to prepare the match officials. If they failed the tests once, they had to retake the tests. If they failed again, we dropped them. In the end, we have 30-referees who had passed both fitness and knowledge tests,” said Dali.
“We had a lot of complaints about the quality of refereeing last season so we identified the shortcomings and worked to improve things for the new season.”
“I see that the referees are of good quality this time and for the first time we will have three female match officials who earned their stripes on merit to officiate matches in the M-League … I see this as a good development for women in sports.”
Dali added that the local referees, despite the brickbats from the public, are of proven quality as they have been invited to officiate matches by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Meanwhile, FAM referee department head Kassim Kadir Bacha said they had sent a proposal to the FAM secretariat on full-time professional referees for the M-League.
“We studied the possibilities of having full-time referees and made our recommendation to the secretariat.
“The FAM management will decide on the next course of action soon,” he said.