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Women Storm Male Refereeing Bastions in Cricket and Football

India’s GS Lakshmi became the first woman in International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) panel of match referees, while the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) held a men’s AFC Cup match with an all-woman refereeing team of Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi.
GS Lakshmi ICC Cricket Match Referee

GS Lakshmi, who first officiated as a match referee in domestic women’s cricket in 2008-09, has experience at the international level, overseeing women’s ODI and T20I matches.

In a huge boost for not just women in cricket, but a correction to cricket’s somewhat patriarchal image itself, India’s GS Lakshmi became the first woman to be appointed to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) panel of match referees on May 14. Her appointment follows close on the heels of Claire Polosak, who became the first ever woman umpire to stand in a men’s ODI earlier this month (in a WCL Division 2 match between Namibia and Oman). Lakshmi will be eligible to referee international games with immediate effect.

Lakshmi, who first officiated as a match referee in domestic women’s cricket in 2008-09, has experience at the international level, overseeing three women’s ODI matches and three women’s T20I matches. During her playing days, she was an all-rounder for South Central Railways.

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Lakshmi’s playing career high point came in 1999 when she was part of the travelling Indian women’s cricket squad to England. Lakshmi never got any game time on the tour, but it was there that the legend of Mithali Raj was born. Raj, then a 17-year-old, marked her ODI debut with a century.

“Honestly, I was not expecting this. I was nominated by the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] last year also. I am sincerely thankful to the BCCI for nominating me again this year,” Lakshmi said in an interview with the Hindu newspaper.

“Any tag of being the first to achieve something gives you that special feeling. And, I am no exception,” she added. “Now, the dream is to officiate in a World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s Eloise Sheridan has joined compatriot Polosak on the ICC development panel of umpires, taking the number of women on that panel to an unprecedented eight. Lauren Agenbag, Kim Cotton, Shivani Mishra, Sue Redfern, Mary Waldron and Jacqueline Williams are the other women officials on that panel. The first woman on the ICC development panel of umpires was Kathy Cross, who retired last year.

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“We welcome Lakshmi and Eloise to our panels, which is an important step forward in our commitment to encouraging women officials,” Adrian Griffith, ICC senior manager, umpires and referees, said. “It is heartening to see their progress and I am sure many more women will be inspired to follow their example. I wish them all the best for a long and enjoyable career.”

In Football Too…

Cricket wasn’t the only sport embracing gender equality and breaking ground though, as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted a men’s AFC Cup match with an all-woman refereeing team.

Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi officiated the AFC Cup match between Myanmar's Yangon United and Cambodia's Naga World at the Thuwunna Stadium on May 15.

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“This will be the first time three female referees preside in the Asian Football Confederation's club competitions, marking a new milestone in Asian refereeing,” the AFC said in a statement.

Bozono said the experience will help in her preparations for the FIFA Women's World Cup in June, where the trio will be among 12 officials from the AFC.

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