ussoccer.com: How did you get involved with refereeing?
Marlene Duffy: “I’ve been a referee for I guess 19 years now, I started when I was 12. I started because my dad was a referee, and it was a great way to earn money. When I moved away and went to graduate school in California, there was such great soccer here and so many opportunities. I was never going to be a great player, to be honest. I was a goalkeeper and I’m 5 feet 2 inches! It was just a great way to stay involved in higher level games than I could ever play in.”
ussoccer.com: What made you want to continue to move up the ranks?
MD: “It was a constant challenge to do better and get the calls right. When someone pushes me I tend to want to respond to the pressure and rise to the challenge.”
ussoccer.com: How did you get onto the AR track?
MD: “I kind of fell into it, to be honest. I got a call about whether I wanted to join the FIFA panel as an assistant referee, and I was surprised! I thought about it for a day, just to make sure I wasn’t rushing into it, but it sounded like a huge opportunity and I haven’t looked back.”
ussoccer.com: What was the first big event you’ve done?
MD: “The first big game that I did was actually Mia Hamm’s final game, the last game of the tour after the 2004 Olympics. It was my first television game, and I was running the line for Kari Seitz and I was so excited. I was literally bouncing up and down. I had grown up watching that whole crew of women play and it was my first international match. Just having that opportunity was something I didn’t think was going to be happening so soon. To get it, and to have the opportunity to work with Kari (Seitz), who is someone everybody wanted to be as we were coming through the ranks.”
ussoccer.com: Did you have to make any calls against Mia Hamm in that game?
MD: “I remember her going down hurt in the second half, and we were all really hoping she wasn’t injured. She got up though eventually and continued to play, but for me that game was so much focus on making sure I got the offside and my big decisions right. The one big thing I remember from my first game was that I had slipped a little bit. I didn’t like to wear cleats at that time, so from then on I started wearing cleats every single game. I’m never going to slip on television again if I can help it!”
ussoccer.com: How did you prep for that game?
MD: “Well, Kari gives a really good pregame (speech) as far as what to expect for fouls, what she wants to play through. As far as the speed of play, I just prepared through my training. I did some men’s games as well, which helped because that was the fastest women’s game I’d ever done.”
ussoccer.com: How did you know you were part of the pool for this U-20 WWC?
MD: “When we went to the Olympics, they had told us that we were part of the pool of people they were considering for the next year’s events. We went to the AR clinic in Portugal the next year because there wasn’t much international action last year. There was the Algarve Cup and that’s about it other than this clinic. There, they told us we’d be selected for one of the major tournaments (U-17 and U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cups) because they wanted to see everybody, assuming we all kept fit. We were kind of hoping we’d have the chance to get to Germany, because I’d already been to Trinidad & Tobago and I wanted to explore the soccer world a little more. We just made sure we were fit enough to go, and I don’t know quite what that process was like but we were excited.”
ussoccer.com: Along with the final, you did the opening match between Germany and Colombia, and a Group B game between Korea DPR and Sweden during the tournament. What were your two group matches like in Germany?
MD: “The first game we did was Germany-Colombia, and when we were standing in the tunnel we had a long walk ahead of us to get onto the field. The Colombian players were singing really loudly the entire way. It was echoing in the tunnel around us and we could also hear them through our communication devices too. They were just obviously very excited and that was great to see. There were so many people there for Germany.”
ussoccer.com: What was the best thing about being part of this event?
MD: “For me, the best moment of getting to do these matches is standing there when the FIFA anthem starts playing. I get chills. When you’re a kid starting out and doing four or five games in a day, or out training every day for 90 minutes and wondering why you’re here, this is the reward for all that training.”
ussoccer.com: Did the final have even more meaning for you?
MD: “I didn’t expect to be as emotional about it as I was. We were walking out with the teams behind us, and there was a big banner that said ‘2010 FIFA U-20 World Cup Final’ and I was a little overcome with emotion and trying to hold it together. I was excited, and nervous and all that before, but that was when everything kind of came together and hit me. This isn’t an opportunity that comes along very often and I just felt so fortunate to have been able to participate in it. I was happy and excited to be able to stay through the quarterfinals and learn, and get paid to train every day.”
ussoccer.com: How did you calm yourself down?
MD: “Lots of deep breaths! The other thing that helps me the most is that we’re able to talk to each other, which is a great help. We’re able to joke around and Carol Anne reminds us that it’s okay to smile sometimes. She had a really good pregame talk about the fact that it’s just a game. It’s obviously an important one but just staying calm and relaxed was important. Once the whistle blows it’s okay, and you get into the mode where you remember that you’ve done this before.”
ussoccer.com: What was it like to receive medals after the final?
MD: “We walked up there and the mascot was giving us high fives and then we shook hands with a lot of really important FIFA officials. Then we got our picture taken and suddenly it was over! It went by in a blur almost. We could see the other referees who had come to watch in the VIP area and they were cheering. It was just amazing.”
ussoccer.com: What will you take away from your overall experience?
MD: “Obviously it was a huge honor, and I feel really blessed to have had the chance to participate. I think I learned a lot, especially in terms of communicating a lot with other officials and had a lot of really good times with referees from other countries. I made some good friends and also got to hang out with some old friends. The coolest thing was being able to meet all these other female officials who are going through exactly what you go through back home. We’re all kind of in the minority and that opportunity to be with people who are similar was great. It was all very positive. For the most part people are very happy for your success. When we were assigned to the final, we didn’t feel jealousy or people wishing they could have had that. It was more that they were so happy for us. I got so many emails when people found out that we were doing the final. It was really great to feel the support.”