Uvena Fernandes: The high-flying referee decides to rest her wings
05 Jul 2024

Sruti Chakraborty
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: Uvena Fernandes, one of the most remarkable FIFA assistant referees in Indian football, announced her retirement from active supervision on Tuesday, July 2, 2024. 

She is the only Indian assistant referee to officiate in a FIFA World Cup final, having officiated at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2016 in Jordan. Having hung up her badge, she will continue to serve as a referee assessor and instructor.

“I have been a referee for almost 20 years, and I think I have already done justice to my badge, achieving several milestones in the process. Now, I thought, it is time to make way for the youngsters.

“Since I have already done my bit, I thought the youngsters should also get a chance, and I can contribute as an instructor or an assessor so that I can do justice to Indian football,” Uvena, a senior officer in the Indian Air Force, told after announcing her retirement. 

Uvena was a member of the elite FIFA panel and officiated in four matches, including the final, at the U-17 Women's World Cup in 2016. That same year, she received the prestigious AFC Special Referees Award. In 2018, she officiated at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. She also officiated in two Asian Games and four Women’s Asian Cups.

Asked about her most important and memorable match, she said, “I think every match is important, whether it's the final of the World Cup or my first match in my career. To me, every match is important. I have always tried to do my best in every match. The final of the U-17 Women's World Cup 2016 was the most memorable one because I became the first Indian to officiate a final of a World Cup and created history.”

Uvena hails from Goa and started her football journey very early in life. She was recognised as a talented player and represented Goa for almost a decade. She eventually realised her dream of playing for India and was part of the team at the 2003 AFC Championship, competing against Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. 

Remembering her journey, she said, “I lost my father when I was two, and my mother went abroad for a job when I was in third standard. Every person has ups and downs in their lives, but if you are passionate and have a dream, you have to work hard towards it. You should never give up. No person in this world is without problems. It's all about how focussed you are and how you work towards achieving your dream. You should focus on the positive things if you want to go ahead in life.

“Throughout my 20 years as a professional referee, I have never had any problems in my matches. It has been a smooth flow for me. Yes, I had to work hard and stay dedicated. You have to concentrate, and have to have that passion,” she added. 

Off the pitch, she is a Wing Commander in the Air Force. She also balances her responsibilities as a wife and mother. “I have to balance my life because I am a mother, I am a working woman, a wife, and have so many other roles in my life. But there has never been any problem or situation in a match that put me in difficulty. I have always come out successful. That's what I feel.

“I think my goals were clear. I always did justice to my profession. That is my job in the Indian Air Force. On the other hand, I never gave up my passion. I always worked hard to achieve my passion, and I have sacrificed a lot,” she said. 

Uvena finds her strength in her 14-year-old son and says, “My son remains my weakness and my strength as well. He first watched me in a match, when I was officiating the Netherlands vs India friendly match. He saw me running here and then, and asked his father, Why are they not passing the ball to my mother? Why is it so? 

“He always travelled with me, whether it was Subroto Cup or the National championships, I used to take him everywhere,” recalled Uvena.

Lastly, asked what her message is for the younger generations, Uvena said, “Whatever the situation is, at whatever stage you are, if you want to prove something, I think you need to be focussed. You will have to work hard and remain happy in every situation to do your best.”

Chairman of the AIFF Referees’ Committee, Mr. K Sankar said: “Uvena remained one of the best female referees in India. She gained respect in AFC, as well as in other continents through her performance. She is still very fit but has chosen to retire. She will now work as an instructor or referee assessor. She is a good talent and has the required knowledge and experience. I wish her the best in the future.”

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