Woman referee follows father's footsteps

Twenty-five years of seeing her father umpire rugby matches has left a lasting impact on Avi'i Faalupega.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, the 32-year-old from the island of Savai’i, said she had always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

She considers it a huge blessing that she is doing exactly that now.

"I have been a referee for rugby about ten years, I started in 2008 and till now and my dad wanted me to follow his footsteps," she said.

Returning from school in Hawaii, Faalupega said she got hooked to refereeing and saw it as a career move and a pathway to professional athleticism. 

In 2016 she got her first appointment as an international referee in the Oceania Sevens tournament, and got selected again for the tournament at the end of this year.

"My experience in referring is not only for the boys – in case that rugby here in Samoa is a man’s sports – that’s why I guess there's not a lot of female referees," she added. 

And taking on the job as the women’s development officer with the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.), she can now put her referee skills to good use.

But her decision to take on that refereeing role came with a lot of challenges, such as name calling and abuse by supporters and players. 

"What I encounter every time during the games I referee in, is get calls by the supporters, and also the players reaction to the decision I make," she said.

Coincidentally, her father also used to play rugby before he became a referee, and performed the role for 25 years. 

"He passed away in 2017 and I feel honored to take my father's place as a referee, which I have kept alive like what her father likes to do," she said. 

Faalupega continues to work as a referee today, and while she still faces a lot of challenges, it will not stop her from following in her father’s footsteps into the future.

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