Apart from Kerala and West Bengal, there is one Indian State that is often considered synonymous with football- no doubt a product of Portuguese colonisation that prevailed. It’s, of course Goa, a state which has seen a fantastic number of women footballers come to the forefront. Now, carrying forward the legacy of Goan football is Uvena Fernandes, a woman selected to officiate as the assistant referee during the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
A little memory jog will remind us that Uvena first shot into prominence after she was selected to officiate at the U17 Women’s World Cup in 2016 following which she earned the ‘AFC Referees Special Award’. Back then, with that feat, she became only the second Indian after K Shankar, who officiated at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
If you thought that Maria Rebello was the only big name to change her career path from that of a professional footballer to a referee, it would suffice to say that Uvena Fernandes had clearly slipped your notice. A former international footballer herself, she made her India debut in 2003. According to her previous interviews, she famously decided to make switch from playing to refereeing with a mind to give back to the sport that had formed much of her legacy.
The switch happened in 2006 after she moved to the Air Force.
So far, India has seen massive strides in games like Hockey and Football not only in terms of the quality of players being fielded but also in the official department. More recently, Indian Hockey referee Deepak Joshi was selected to officiate at the recently concluded Gold Coast Commonwealth Game and before that, at the Hockey World League Finals too.
Uvena’s selection comes on the back of what has overall been a period of positive development for Indian football. Since hosting the U17 World Cup, the country has seen special attention being paid to grassroot level football with the inception of concepts like Baby Leagues and various other state wide campaigns to encourage the sport.
It is hoped that Uvena’s achievement is just the most recent in what will be a long list of milestones for Indian football.