Date of Birth: 12th December, 1981
Location: Ħal Lija
Star Sign: Sagittarius
Esther Azzopardi started locally refereeing back in 1997. She then went on to become a FIFA referee in 2007, officiating more than 60 matches abroad and acting as the 4th official in 32 other matches. Amongst these are 10 Champions League Qualifying matches, 4 Champions League Round of 32 matches, 4 Champions League Round of 16 matches, and 9 Euro Qualifying matches. Esther also officiated the Algarve Cup, the Cyprus Cup and World University Games in South Korea.
Image credit: fifa
Can you recall the first time you refereed a football match in front of spectators?
Unfortunately, I can’t really recall my first time, as it was quite a while ago, but I do have nice memories of big crowds, or else smaller but louder! In the 2011 Champions League, Olympique Lyon vs Sparta Praga was played in Stade de Gerland in front of 7000, which isn’t considered a lot, but the stadium has a lot of history. It’s hosted matches from the 1998 FIFA World Cup and also concerts by the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. I also had the opportunity to officiate in front of 25,000 people for the Euro 2017 qualifying match between France and Greece. One of the most impressive ones was when I acted as the 4th Official for the women’s friendly match between England and Germany at the New Wembley Stadium which has a capacity of 90,000, and on the day, there were 50,000.
How did you get into refereeing?
My father was a FIFA Assistant referee himself, and he was the one who inspired me to follow in his footsteps..
What has so far been your best experience in your career?
I hope that the best is yet to come! But to this day, I must say that refereeing in the Women’s World Cup has been the greatest experience of all.
Image credit: Mr. Joe Borg
In your opinion, is there something lacking in Malta in terms of local football?
I think it boils down to a matter of attitude towards the game itself. I believe that if we manage to instill a more professional attitude in our younger generations, we’ll have a positive outcome in the future. A professional player or official eats, sleeps and plays football 24/7 and repeats.
How would you promote football to the younger generation, especially to girls?
They say that seeing is believing! I’m sure that media exposure does the job. Young girls who get interested in what I do can see with their own eyes what refereeing can give in return! You get to know different types of people, make new friends, you learn how to handle difficult situations even in life and not only on the pitch. You’ll get to visit many countries and get to know different cultures. Refereeing becomes a lifestyle, and its benefits are endless!