“I just want to wave my arms in the air, I am so happy. I can’t express the emotion I feel to have been chosen. It’s a dream come true…”
Volha Tsiareshka says that putting into words the significance of her appointment as referee for Sunday’s UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship final is not easy.
Yet the smile of the 28-year-old teacher from Belarus says it all. Tsiareshka is surprised and delighted to have been named in charge of the encounter between France and Spain.
“I couldn’t sleep at all,” she recalls of the hours after she was told of her appointment. “I think it must have been two o’clock in the morning before I finally went to sleep. And I was wide awake three hours later, unable to think of anything else apart from this point, which I have been working towards for years.”
Tsiareshka has been in refereeing for more than half of her life, and while her job as a high school physical education teacher takes up much of her time, she devotes any available moment she can to developing as an official. “I love being with my friends,” she says, “but refereeing is my real passion, so I have always been dedicated to it.”
She is proud of the positive reactions she has received about her assignment from many quarters. “I’ve been overwhelmed by how many colleagues in refereeing have called me…the phone has been ringing non-stop.”
Tsiareshka immediately told one special person about her appointment. “My mother always inspires me and supports me,” she emphasises. “I told her first, and we both got very emotional.”
Accompanying Tsiareshka in the showpiece occasion at Belfast’s National Stadium will be assistant referees Iuliia Petrova (Russia), Elena Soklevska Ilievski (FYR Macedonia) and fourth official Silvia Domingos (Portugal). The quartet have knitted together perfectly within an excellent team of match officials in Northern Ireland.
“There is a very close bond between us” Tsiareshka confirms. “I am very lucky to have such an excellent team working with me for the final.”
At the WU19 finals, Tsiareshka has taken charge of two group stage matches – Germany’s 3-0 success over Scotland, and France’s 6-1 defeat of Italy. She has closely followed the tournament’s other games, and singles out the dramatic semi-final between Germany and France in Belfast as a highlight. “It was a fantastic game played at a high tempo,” she reflects.
Sunday’s big game is a crucial step on Tsiareshka’s career path – and she intends to savour the occasion, particularly in terms of gathering experience.
“There’s always lot of learning involved,” she explains, “and I think that’s what I enjoy the most. I am very proud of the appointment, and want to give it everything I can – that’s what’s really important to me.”