Ferreira-James creates history ... first Guyanese referee to officiate in Olympic soccer final
By Frederick Halley in Toronto
August 30, 2004
AMIDST the internal wrangling that has once again gripped Guyana's football, there continues to be a shining light in the form of Dianne Ferreira-James, whose recent significant and historic achievement may have gone unnoticed by most Guyanese.
While the four Guyanese Olympians in Athens were chasing after elusive medals, Ferreira-James was quietly continuing to make a name for herself, becoming the first Guyanese to officiate in an Olympic soccer final when she carried the whistle in the entire second half of the much-touted women's final, featuring archrivals the United States and Brazil last Thursday in Greece.
Ferreira-Jamesí climb to the top has been quite phenomenal, having been elected a FIFA-certified referee in 1999, a first for women's referees in Guyana.
After an initial sojourn in Guyana and around the Caribbean, she was selected to officiate in the FIFA Under-19 World championships in Edmonton, Canada, in 2001 and came out with flying colours.
The stalwart referee had described her Canadian trip then as a real challenge, pointing out that the weather condition was new to her as it was approaching the dreaded winter season.
Dianne immediately left her mark by emerging winner in the Cooper's Test, allowing her to remain in Edmonton for the duration of the championships.
The Guyanese official was appointed for two matches in the first round - Nigeria against Japan and Japan versus Denmark. She also worked as the fourth official in the Japan/Canada encounter and the quarterfinals featuring hosts Canada and England.
Ferreira-James' performances in these matches spurred the officials to appoint her to officiate in the final between Canada and the United States, and according to reports, she did an excellent job.
In a FIFA bulletin, she described her appointment for the final as the happiest moment in her life, especially coming from a country that plays little or no women's games, only men's. "All my life I refereed menís games at the highest level around the Caribbean. I'm a dedicated, committed and hard worker. My motto is Consistency, Fair Play and Game Flow. I was never exposed to such huge crowds before, but I remained focused..."
"During my stay I learnt a lot from the other officials, especially FIFA referee Canadian Sonia Denoncourt. I also received moral support and guidance from long-time friend, mentor and coach IAAF Instructor and Lecturer Dr Linda Blade. I was extremely impressed with the organisation of the tournament. All matches were on time, etc. Referees displayed a high level of knowledge of the game and ability to perform their duties with diligence," she disclosed.
The 33-year-old was eagerly looking forward to officiating in the 2003 Women's World Cup in China but was somehow bypassed by FIFA.
Undaunted, Ferreira-James had no intention of call it quits and was soon back in action in the CONCACAF Women's Under-19 championships in May this year. After the preliminary round of matches, she was again selceted for the final between the USA and eventual winners Canada.
Despite not winning a medal at the 2004 Athens Games, all Guyanese should be proud of the efforts of Dianne Ferreira-James who has kept the Golden Arrowhead fluttering in no uncertain terms in the greatest sporting event on earth.
According to an amateur rower-turned-referee, "I always dreamt of participating in the Games as an athlete, but it wasn't to be. Now, though, thanks to refereeing, I've finally made it. You can't imagine what it feels like to be here, in Greece, in the birthplace of the Olympics."
Ferreira-James, who participated in several sports disciplines before finally settling on a refereeing career, is no doubt expressing the same sentiments.