Photograph: Grant Stantial
For Sarah Walker, football is a passion. But rather than playing ‘the beautiful game’, she has instead taken up refereeing.
Since filling in as a referee at her brother’s Saturday morning football match in 2008, Walker has quickly developed into a top official and this has led her to be named an assistant referee at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, currently taking place in Canada.
“One of the benefits of refereeing is being able to be involved in football at a higher level than I ever could have achieved as a player,” says the 25-year-old.
“It’s amazing to be here – to achieve that and be in that atmosphere.”
Patsi Davies, chair of Waikato Bay of Plenty Football, is particularly proud of Walker’s achievements and impressed by her commitment to the game.
“Selection to referee on the international stage is an outstanding achievement and WaiBOP is very proud of Sarah. She is an outstanding role model for young women who want to have a lifelong participation in what is probably the most popular global team sport for women and girls.”
Walker has worked hard to reach her goals, and now regularly officiates in high-level football matches in New Zealand. She is considered one of the best female referees in the country, and is one of a select few women who can officiate men’s games at the highest level.
But she isn’t finished yet and has her sights set on officiating at the Olympics and becoming an assistant referee in A-League matches in the future.
Walker’s achievements are particularly impressive given she recently graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Management Studies.
Walker has to combine study with her training and testing for refereeing.
“There is a lot of training – physical training, mental training and theoretical training,” she says. “For ASB premiership and our national leagues, have fitness tests that we have to do, and we have to pass.”
However, Walker’s commitment and enthusiasm for refereeing have led to some great achievements so far.
Her time in Canada will surely be a highlight and propel her forward to set and achieve even greater goals.