In the final edition of Behind the Whistle for the season, Football Queensland spoke to FIFA Assistant Referee Misuk Park who just last month was awarded the Jacqueline Leleu Medal for Assistant Referee of the Year at the 2021 Football in Queensland Awards Night.
An experienced match official in the A-League Women competition, many would be forgiven for assuming Park’s background in the game traced back to her childhood.
Growing up in Korea, however, it was athletics and sprinting in particular that was Park’s first passion, and it wasn’t until she was studying to become a physical education teacher that she first got involved in football when a friend encouraged her to complete an entry level referee course.
“There was a lot of excitement around football at the time, as Korea and Japan were hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup in which Korea was very successful,” she said.
“After I completed the course, I became very interested in the officiating side of football.”
The early stages of Park’s journey as a referee were in her home country, where match officials can be promoted to the next level every two years providing they pass the required fitness testing, Laws of the Game tests and match assessments.
This proved to be the beginning of a very successful career in officiating as Park rose through the ranks in Korea, and later here in Australia.
“At the time, there wasn’t a national competition for women’s football, however I was able to gain experience in both men’s and women’s local football in my home city,” Park said.
“In 2008, I was fortunate enough to be nominated as a FIFA Assistant Referee and since then I have been lucky enough to officiate in a number of AFC youth tournaments and Asian Games, as well as Olympic and FIFA qualifiers.”
Despite her career as an Assistant Referee taking Park from Korea to her new home of Australia in 2018, her refereeing style has remained consistent over the years.
“All cultures are different, and the way they play football can be quite different in terms of technique and tactics. In Korea, there tends to be a large focus on technical skill and short passing,” she notes.
“In Australia, the game is more physical with stronger challenges, and referees need to manage the game well to keep it in control.
“The way I referee has stayed similar however, because knowledge of the laws, fitness and communication are the same in refereeing around the world.”
Park has gained plenty of experience at the top level of domestic football in Australia as an Assistant Referee in the A-League Women competition, and will soon officiate A-League Men matches for the first time after being selected for Football Australia’s 2021-22 A-Leagues Match Officials Panel.
“The part I have enjoyed the most about refereeing in the A-League Women’s is the atmosphere at the matches,” she said.
“Here in Australia, the women’s game is more popular and to officiate in a big stadium with a large crowd is very exciting. I am very excited to see the league continue to grow, with more teams and a longer season.
“Officiating in the Men’s league will be a new challenge for me, especially using the VAR technology.”
Park now has the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in her sights as Australia prepares to welcome the biggest women’s sporting event to its shores.
“We are very lucky here in Australia that the referee candidates for the Women’s World Cup in 2023 are being well supported by the leagues to prepare for this important competition,” Park said.
“Every referee dreams of going to the World Cup, so I share this same dream. Australia has become my second home, and so to me this is also a home World Cup.”
Regardless of where her career takes her next, she is hopeful that her approach to refereeing can inspire younger officials to become the best match officials they can.
“I always encourage young people to try refereeing. There are many transferable skills that you learn, such as managing people, making tough decisions, working as a team, building self-confidence and resilience,” Park said.
“I want to be the best official I can be through sacrifice, hard work and dedication. I hope that this passion to be the best will inspire a younger generation to do the same.”