Khadijah Mars has one major goal in mind and that is to make the FIFA list in two years and become Barbados’ leading centre referee.
The 23-year-old University of the West Indies graduate has another two-years until she is qualified to make the FIFA list as the age requirement is 25.
During an interview with Barbados TODAY, Mars said the game including refereeing, is vastly expanding in several areas. Therefore, she is taking this time to mentally and physically prepare knowing very well the level of expectation that is on her.
“I am using this time to prepare mentally. I do a lot of reading and watch a lot of international football. The rules change a lot so I just try to keep on top of it. The game is getting bigger so I always have to keep on top of it, try to stay fit and keep myself as informed as possible about all the changes.
“You need to be confident in yourself first of all to be a centre referee. You need to before the game even starts to have it in control as a female. As a female, you need to be able to control the game for 90 minutes. So, your personality goes a long way. There are also a lot of big decisions that can change the game but when you make those decisions just be confident about it,” she said.
Barbados has had several outstanding female FIFA referees over the years. The likes of FIFA assistant referees Tonia Deane and Shannon Gibson. Former FIFA centre referee Gillian Martindale and FIFA instructor Beverley Grant have all inspired Mars over the years.
“People like Gillan, Tonia and Shannon, Beverly Grant really motivate and inspire me. Those are the people who I look up to, the people who I call for help because they are females and they have been through it. They refereed at the highest level and I kind of look at them as role models. And it kind of sets a platform for where I want to be at,” Mars explained.
The niece of former senior national players Walton ‘Chico’ Burrowes and Dwayne Mars, the younger Mars is content with her progress working as an assistant to the general secretary at the Barbados Football Association. She is also optimistic about what the future has in store.
Passionate about the sport, Mars, a former national goalkeeper would like to see women’s football grow and develop in this country.
“We have a lot of young players playing for our senior team. We tend to attract more youths to the national teams now. So, I will try to encourage the older persons not too old but our senior players who are not playing anymore to try and be involved in the refereeing because they are familiar with it.
“They are familiar with the sport so refereeing would come naturally. They just need to give it a try. I think more people are scared because they think refereeing is a little pressuring but nothing doesn’t beat a try.
“So they need to try their hands at it and see how good they are. There are a lot of opportunities out there for referees. The game is getting bigger and I think that there are a lot more opportunities and avenues open for women out there in refereeing,” she explained.
The young referee officiated last in the Cayman Islands and also Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 at the Caribbean Football Union Under-14 competition. Mars described it as a great learning opportunity.
Going forward Mars has her sights set on a few plans that she intends to follow through on. She said: “My aim was to go out there and learn as much as I can and bring it back here. And the next step is to make the FIFA list and referee at the highest level.
“My goal is to stay fit, keep in good form and see if I can go as long as possible without injury. Try to stay sharp knowledge-wise. I spend a lot of time reading and extending my knowledge.
“I just want to continue growing as a person, as a referee and be able to help females locally especially, encourage them. Because of COVID especially, things are on standstill with a lot of question marks but I would really like to see female football catch itself. It has been off for a couple of years but I would really like to see it kick off soon if not this year.”
She explained: “The Emmerson Boyce Foundation team was here late last year and I think he was getting a pretty good response from the national players. He also brought along Janie Frampton who is a former FIFA referee and she worked with our female referees. I think that was a good start for us.
“The game is growing together. So, when you have the referees getting more experience, you want to have the players also gaining that experience so that the game itself is also growing.”