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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 May 2007, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
South Africa's first woman ref
By Mohammed Allie
BBC Sport, Cape Town

The Women's World Cup trophy
Deidre Mitchell hopes to officiate at the Women's World Cup

Deidre Mitchell is hoping to officiate at the Women's World Cup in China later this year after making history as the first female to referee a match in South Africa's Premier Soccer League.

The 31-year-old Mitchell was thrown in at the deep end by being assigned a game involving the country's most popular side, Kaizer Chiefs who took on Santos in her home town of Port Elizabeth.

"Besides the normal butterflies one has before any game, I wasn't unduly nervous," Mitchell said.

"My refereeing colleagues were also very supportive and made my task so much easier.

"My philosophy is you either swim or feel sorry for yourself and drown. I have lots to live for so I'm making sure that I swim."

Ari Soldatos, the PSL Referees Appointment Officer, said it was a deliberate decision to allocate a high profile game to Mitchell.

"I wanted to see how she would handle the cauldron of a high profile Kaizer Chiefs game," he explained.

"I was very happy with her performance. She did the refereeing fraternity proud and we'll definitely see more of her in the new season."

Showing she wasn't intimidated by the reputation of Chiefs and their passionate fans, Mitchell booked four of their players and also correctly disallowed a goal at a crucial stage of the game which the Soweto giants lost 3-1.

It will be great if I am included in the panel for the Women's World Cup in September
Deidre Mitchell

Safa's head of referees, Carlos Henriques said Mitchell's achievement is a culmination of hard work dating back to 2003 when she first attended the National Women's Refereeing Workshop.

"Her hard work propelled her to international level where she participated in the African Women's Championships held in South Africa in 2004 and the under-19 Women's World Cup in Thailand later that year," said Henriques.

She also officiated at last year's African Women's Championships in Nigeria.

Since then Mitchell has attended several international refereeing courses including a preparatory course held in the Canary Islands for this year's Women's World Cup to be held in China.

"It will be great if I am included in the panel for the Women's World Cup in September. I'll just have to wait and see what Fifa decides," says Mitchell.

Given all the time she spends away from her desk at a leading multi national car manufacturer Mitchell is thankful that her employers have supported her refereeing ambitions.

"They haven't stood in my way when it comes to getting time off to attend courses and officiate at tournaments," she said.

Mitchell now hopes her achievement will provide the inspiration for other female referees to follow her path.

"I hope to serve as a role model for other aspirant female referees. They must however, realise that it requires hard work and commitment."


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