Grundbacher thrilled by WU17 final assignment

Swiss referee Désirée Grundbacher will make an important step forward when she takes charge of Monday's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final in Lithuania.

Désirée Grundbacher . the WU17 EURO final referee
Désirée Grundbacher . the WU17 EURO final referee ©Sportsfile

From an international player to an international referee – Désirée Grundbacher has been able to see football from both sides.

The 34-year-old from Switzerland is relishing the latest stage on her career path, which comes on Monday when she leads the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final between Germany and Spain in Marijampole, Lithuania.

Grundbacher, who comes from the town of Effretikon, near Zurich, made 13 appearances as a midfielder for the Swiss national women's team, and says that her experiences at the higher levels as a player have been vital in helping her to forge a career as a referee.

"You understand how players react, and you understand about situations in a match," she says – and admits that when she was a player, she often had a word or two to say to the officials during matches. "I didn't always give referees as much respect as I should have, to be honest.

"As a referee, it's clear that you learn a lot about respect – showing respect to players, and learning people management skills which mean that the players can respect you."

The assignment in Marijampole sees Grundbacher, an international referee since 2012, fulfilling a major ambition. "I wanted to referee at a tournament such as this one – and I've really enjoyed this experience. I've learned a great amount."

Grundbacher is following in the footsteps of other distinguished Swiss female referees – Nicole Pétignat, who was the first female official to take charge of a UEFA men's competition match in 2003, and Esther Staubli, who officiated at last year's UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 final. "Esther is a very good friend; we often train together, and she's given me a lot of good advice," she says.

The referee team for the final - Elodie Coppola, Lucie Šulcová, Désirée Grundbacher and Almira Spahić
The referee team for the final - Elodie Coppola, Lucie Šulcová, Désirée Grundbacher and Almira Spahić©Sportsfile

The WU17 final team sees Grundbacher accompanied by assistants Elodie Coppola (France) and Almira Spahić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), with Lucie Šulcová (Czech Republic) acting as fourth official. 

"We've been a great family at the tournament," Grundbacher reflects, fully appreciating the chance to work and talk about experiences together with counterparts from other countries.

Away from refereeing, Grundbacher has a very special person in her life – her two-year-old son Mael Jése. "I spend so much time playing with him, and he's always wanting to play football," she says proudly.

As for the future, she hopes the tournament in Lithuania will be a major stepping stone towards a long and fulfilling career. "I'm so happy about being selected for the final, it was a wonderful surprise," she says. "I've worked very hard to get to this stage.

"In the future, I will take everything step by step – and I will certainly look forward to every game I referee."

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