By setting her goals, young soccer referee succeedsIn March 2000, Hong Eun-ah, 23, received second-level soccer referee certification from the Korea Football Association, earning her the honor of being the youngest female referee in the country.
Before that acclaim, when she was asked why she wanted to be a soccer referee, Ms. Hong replied, "A soccer referee's job, right in the excitement of the soccer field, is like a conductor commanding an entire orchestra."
In the past three years Ms. Hong never had a second thought about her plans, and this month she finally became the youngest female FIFA referee in Korea. This year, FIFA approved 23 applicants from Korea as international referees; Ms. Hong is one of them. For nine of these new recruits, including Ms. Hong, it will be their first time as international referees.
"Since middle school I've always wanted to become a soccer referee," says Ms. Hong. "I love soccer, but I'm not good enough to become a soccer player. Also, women's soccer in Korea is not as popular or as active an organization as men's soccer, so I decided to become a referee."
The 23-year-old Ewha Womans University student may have indulged in her passion, but she never fell behind in her studies. In fact, when she was attending high school in Seoul she was one of the top five students in her school. Ms. Hong wanted to major in sports in college but her parents didn't approve.
Then, in 1996, her parents decided to emigrate to New Zealand, and sent their daughter to the new country first.
Her parents' decision to send her off to New Zealand only made her determination to become a soccer referee stronger. Instead of hitting her school books, Ms. Hong said that she became even more in love with soccer after joining a regional soccer club in New Zealand. Visiting Seoul during a school break, she watched students coming out of a private institute for sports majors and thought, This is where I should be.
Finally, sensing her daughter's goals hadn't changed, Ms. Hong's mother threw up her hands and agreed to let her daughter pursue the course she wanted.
When Ms. Hong's year in New Zealand came to a close, she returned to Seoul and was soon accepted as a sports science major at Ewha Womans University.
Next month Ms. Hong will resume classes at Ehwa Womans University, but this time as a graduate student, majoring in business management. "I want to learn sports marketing," she says.
For this young referee, the goals never end.
by Choi Min-woo
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