A former soccer talent from southern Vietnam has turned a career-wrecking accident into the beginning of her persevering journey to become the country’s best female referee.
While Vietnam’s national soccer teams are still chasing their wild dream of being qualified for the world’s biggest soccer event, a Vietnamese female referee is already one step closer to being an assistant referee at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Truong Thi Le Trinh, a woman from Long An Province in southern Vietnam, has been included in the event’s Candidates Program for prospective match officials along over 120 other women referees across the globe.
Next year, the 33-year-old Trinh will be appointed to be an assistant referee either at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay or the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France before about 60 referees are selected for the biggest stage of women’s soccer in 2019.
Truong Thi Le Trinh at the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Fourteen years ago, Trinh’s career path as a professional soccer player seemed promising when she was called up to the national team at the age of 18.
But a serious injury to one of her knees put an end to the young talent’s career when it was just about to flourish.
“I realized at the time that I could only help myself through education, for all I had ever known up until then was playing football,” Trinh recalled.
Trinh enrolled in the Ho Chi Minh City University of Sports and graduated in 2008, upon which she signed up for two other courses on sport education and refereeing, determined to strike a balance between a stable job and fulfilling her dream of being on the soccer field once again.
After finishing her studies, Trinh taught physical education at Tan Tru High School in Long An while working as an assistant referee now and then for national championships.
“Though my teaching job allowed me to have a settled future, my love for the ball and the feeling of being on the grass field, even just looking at others playing, was too tempting to pass,” Trinh explained her persevering pursuit for a career as a referee.
Trinh’s hard work paid off in 2012, when out of five Vietnamese referees attending a FIFA training course in Thailand, she was the only one invited to be an assistant referee at international championships after the course ended.
Truong Thi Le Trinh (first left) works as an assistant referee in a match at the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship in Mandalay, Myanmar. Photo: Tuoi Tre
“During the training course in Thailand, I could understand only 50 percent of what was being taught due to my limited command of English,” Trinh admitted, saying that was the single thing she had regretted the most.
Trinh wasted no time to sign up for an English course in her hometown in Long An after returning to Vietnam, and has since seen great improvement in her English proficiency.
Trinh’s first experience as the referee for an international match was at the AFF Women’s Championship hosted by Vietnam in 2013, and it was only one year later that she was listed among FIFA’s Elite Referees.
Since earning the highest honor for a FIFA referee, Trinh has been appointed to bigger soccer stages such as the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the 2016 invitational Algarve Cup, and the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan.
“Everyone thinks my duty ends when the match is finished, but we referees actually have to attend another stressful session after every match to go over our performance with the supervisors,” Trinh said.
A serious mistake could mean the end of their international career for a FIFA referee, Trinh said.