Breaking Soccer Gender Barriers in World Cup and Orinda Soccer Clubs

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(Kevin Desai, Photographer)
(L-R) Joselyn Smith, Victorine Perri, Elise Desai and Madison Bernstein are referees of the East Bay Eclipse Soccer Club.

    As soccer sports enthusiasts tuned-in to cheer their favorite 2022 FIFA World Cup teams, the inspiration to watch and play this sport extended to young female athletes.
    The 2022 World Cup broke down traditional gender roles.
    For the first time, the Qatar matches had female referees officiating the men’s games, the first all-female referee crew and the first female lead referee.
    Beyond Qatar, inspiration is found in Orinda’s community as well.
    Orinda’s all-female referee crew – Joselyn Smith, Madison Bernstein, Elise Desai and Victorine Perri – are playing competitive soccer at high levels for the East Bay Eclipse Soccer Club (EBESC). At the same time, they are certified USSF (U.S. Soccer Federation) referees and officiate boy’s and girl’s matches during the weekends.
    “I have admiration for the work that professional women referees are doing,” said Desai, a Miramonte freshman and J.V. soccer player.
    With the encouragement of their soccer club, these women have developed an understanding of the game achieved only by being on both sides of the referee’s whistle.
    “At Eclipse, we encourage female involvement in all levels of leadership, including our board of directors and club staff,” said Director of the East Bay Eclipse Soccer Club, Shane Carney. EBESC’s home is in Rheem, though all tryouts take place yearly at 
Wilder in Orinda. “Having seen female referees succeed in the club, our teenage female players see the opportunity to be referees as well. They continue the cycle by being inspirations for the young girls playing in the games they referee.”
    Desai added, “I look forward to a day when being a female referee is commonplace rather than remarkable.”
    Orinda resident Kevin Desai, who is Elise’ father, said the sport builds self-assurance in their kids.
    “Both my daughters have played soccer from a very young age,” he said. “As a parent, it’s exciting to see the confidence and composure our kids gain from the sport.”

Neil Bui can be reached at neil_bui@yahoo.com.

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