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Xie Lijun becomes Chinese Super League's first female referee

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-16 09:16
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Xie Lijun (right, first). [Photo/Chinese Football Association website]

SHANGHAI -- After taking charge of the match between Shanghai Port and Shandong Taishan in the 2024 Chinese Super League on Monday, Xie Lijun became the first woman to referee a top-flight men's football match in China.

Xie, 35, is an elite assistant referee for the Asian Football Confederation. She officiated at the 2022 Women's Asian Cup and the 2024 U20 Women's Asian Cup finals, as well as multiple FIFA games. She was the only Chinese referee on the field at the 2023 Women's World Cup.

"In 2023, I was the only one to referee in the women's World Cup, and I hope to have more Chinese female referees participate in the World Cup," said Xie.

Before her CSL debut, Xie had studied for a long time on the sidelines. "I watch the CSL matches on the spot very often. Before this game, I reviewed the previous competitions between the two teams, focusing on the analysis of both teams' tactics and making plans in advance," Xie said.

"The rhythm of men's games is different from that of women's. I made adequate preparations in terms of physical strength and refreshed my understanding of football," she added.

However, Xie admitted that she was "slightly nervous" before the game. "But when the whistle sounded, I focused all my attention on the game, and the feeling of tension disappeared," she said, pointing out that her milestone marks a fresh start for female Chinese referees.

"It is quite common for female referees to officiate men's matches in European leagues. If we want to referee at a World Cup, we need to lay a solid foundation in men's football competitions," Xie said.

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