June 6, 2008

Latina Referee Bound for Beijing

By Héctor Navejas
Vida En El Valle

SACRAMENTO — Verónica Pérez’s heart has always been with soccer, and thanks to that passion she has been selected to take part in this summer’s Olympic Games in China.

The 28-year-old Pérez, the oldest in a family of five siblings, was among three female referees in California soccer leagues selected by FIFA to represent the United States in Beijing.

In the United States, there are only six female referees who have reached FIFA’s level 2. Three of them are from California, and all three are packing their bags for the trip to China.

“I feel proud and happy to be selected,” said Pérez. “It will be a great opportunity to learn more because we will receive training and I’ll be in contact with referees with far greater experience. I’ll be happy to participate in whatever games they assign me.”

Pérez is currently a line judge with the Central California Soccer League (CCSL), and is a member of the California North Referees Association.

She was recently promoted to FIFA’s international level 2 status.

Pérez began her sports career 12 years ago when she decided to play soccer.

Since she was 14, she played in high school and in Sacramento County competitive leagues. She did that for two years, but left it to dedicate more time to her college studies and a full-time job.

Soccer passion ran through Pérez’s blood. Her former coach, who also scheduled soccer games, invited her to be a referee in some youth matches. When she was 16, she began a new career by running up and down the field as an assistant referee.

“My heart has always been with soccer,” said Pérez. “I left being a player, but I made the decision to continue with the game by being a line judge. That’s what I continue doing.”

For Pérez, it was not easy.

“I started at level 8, which is the lowest. I had a lot of desire to keep learning, and little by little I advanced to the next levels until I reached level 4, or the national level,” said Pérez.

Pérez said that other female referees, much older than her, supported her so that she would have confidence in herself.

“At the beginning, the (male) players would look at me as someone weak and tried to ‘walk all over me,’” she explained.” But with time you learn to manage their passion of the game, to be tolerant.”

Jorge Magaña, one of the CCSL’s main referees, said that to reach the FIFA international level one must have two years of state competition and two years of national competition. Additionally, one must pass various tests, assessments and evaluations.

“Verónica fulfilled those requisites,” said Magaña. “She has always done a good job. She puts a lot of heart in what she does. She’s always very concentrated, and that is why she was observed and selected by FIFA.”

Pérez said her father and brothers also enjoy soccer, and talk about their favorite teams in México’s professional league.

“Some of my brothers accompany me to the games when I work, and sometimes I take them to Major League Soccer matches or when Chivas or América play over here. We always have a great time,” said Pérez.

Pérez’s career is not limited to soccer. She works full-time with the SIEU Engineers Local 39. She is also studying for doctorates in politics and public administration at California State University, Sacramento.

“Later on, I would like to work with a local government or in non-profit organizations so that I can contribute to the improvement of life of the people in their community,” she said.

Before heading to the Olympic Games, Pérez will travel to Trinidad & Tobago where she will be a line judge in the women’s sub-17 world championship qualifying. That will mark her first international experience as an official member of FIFA.

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