Samoa’s first referee to officiate in a F.I.F.A. tournament is back from her second stint at the job, this time in France.
Maria Toi Folau Ilalio Loau Salamasina spent the past two months training and preparing to officiate as an assistant referee during the F.I.F.A. under 20 women’s tournament.
She is back for just a week before she heads to Fiji to referee the men’s international game.
Maria said the experience in France taught her how to better “read the game” and develop as an assistant referee.
Whilst the work itself is fundamentally the same, the experience was valuable because it inspired her to begin training referees here in Samoa.
“I have a programme for them because I want them to know I care about them,” Maria said about the Samoa Football Federation.
“I am going overseas and officiating games because of the Football Federation, so I have a big plan for them.”
Maria plans to run week-long workshops to get them to the level of qualifying to work for Oceania tournaments, which is the first stepping stone on the way to F.I.F.A.
“I need them to become better referees and become better assistants because I want some other referee here to represent Samoa,” she said.
Her plans for a referee training programme include fitness and theory as well as practical sessions alongside a club team to give the referees as much experience as possible.
Following closely in her footsteps is Samoa’s first male referee to participate in an Oceania tournament, Malae Salanua, who is heading to the Solomon Islands this month.
But Maria said she is not done yet and plans to one day referee in the F.I.F.A. Women’s World Cup.
“Now I have done the U20 Cup two times, but I want to be the first Samoan woman to be in the Women’s World Cup.
“I need to train harder, and let them know I am working hard for this.”
She said she wants her kids to know their mum is the number one referee in Samoa.
Samoa Football Federation Technical Director, Valerio Raccuglia said Maria is immensely talented.
He said since he started at the federation last year, he has watched her career shoot up and knows it will only continue.