Delifna Dimoski wants to promote refereeing as a pathway for young girls who love football.
“I think there are more opportunities for females to referee at elite level both nationally and internationally than there are playing,” the W-League assistant referee said.
Last season Dimoski won both the NPL Capital Football Women’s and Men’s Referee of the Year becoming the first woman to ever win the NPL Men’s award, the first individual to win the NPL Men’s Referee of the Year in a debut season and the first individual to hold both awards.
“It really flies against what I have heard my whole career that women don’t belong in men’s football and that women don’t deserve equal pay. We are doing the same job. We’re stepping up and if we can meet the requirements, the equal opportunity is deserved,” Dimoski said.
“Gender has nothing to do with any of the refereeing decisions that are made on the field.”
While female football has grown in terms of playing participation, the growth hasn’t been replicated in officiating numbers. Women’s Premier League matches normally have all female officials but a lot of games won’t have a full complement of female’s referees anymore.
“When I speak to younger girls and encourage them to become a ref, I tell them you make lifelong friends and learn things about yourself you didn’t know. You learn skills you will have for life whether that is in leadership or communication. Refereeing is quick thinking and you learn to analyse situations differently. It also gives you an opportunity to stay fit which is a big appeal for those who want an active lifestyle,” the 27-year-old said.
“If you are genuinely passionate about football and want to give back, it is amazing way to do it. You get the best seat in the house.”
Dimoski is upfront about the negatives involved with being a female referee, including abuse that is hurled from the sidelines.
“I contemplated giving up refereeing because of the abuse I received. When doing local competitions some of the abuse is not acceptable whether that is at the ground or online. I feel for the younger girls and at times it may feel like it is not worth copping the abuse. The positives far outweigh the negatives though,” Dimoski said.
“Being a female football referee is a minority within a minority. It’s such a powerful message when you see a female referee out in the middle. It shows girls that they can do it. Even if you have self doubt, there is another woman who has softened the ground to help you cover the journey.”
Dimoski loves going to junior grounds and seeing young girls with a whistle in hand.
“I approach them after the game, tell them they rock and that they are on a great path. Whether they decide to be an elite level ref or they are happy to do community league, they are still involved in the game and that speaks more than anything else,” the now Canberra local said.
“I get such joy seeing young girls referee and watching how they progress.”
Through leadership and mentoring programs, Dimoski is inspiring young girls and is determined to change the perception on how people view referees.
“It’s still tough, I am not going to lie. I still have self doubt and have to constantly talk myself up especially before a men’s game, even if I am the most senior official out there,” Dimoski said.
“But I am determined to move the needle. I want other young women to know they can be a referee and I want to bring them on the journey. You can’t be what you can’t see. There are now more opportunities than barriers.”
Story: Daniel Hill