The Italian Almanac


Cristina Cini

Cristina Cini has become the first Italian woman chosen to be part of a refereeing team at a Champions League match. Cini was a lineswoman for Wednesday's Champions League preliminary match between Bulgarian sides Bate Borisov and Steaua Bucharest. Cini, 38, is the first and only female Italian assistant referee in European football. The Florence native is the only Italian representative in the refereeing squad for the upcoming women's World Cup in China.

Cini moved up to the second division in 2002 after touting a whistle at lower division soccer games, as referee or line official, for 11 years. Her first Serie A match came in May 2003 when she was on the line for the Juventus-Chievo. A graceful figure with long dark hair, Cini has won praise for her physical fitness and for the confidence with which she signals offsides and other infractions. Timid and self-effacing off the pitch, she is cool and determined on it. "You have to be like that," she said when her promotion to Serie A and B was announced by the referees' association in 2002. "You just have to signal the right things - that's the only way to get the players' respect".

Cini lives in Florence where she has an office job in the day and paints pictures, as well as officiating at soccer matches, in her spare time. Before getting involved in soccer, she was an amateur sprinter and still puts herself through a tough training session almost every day. "I started more or less by chance, almost as a joke but I immediately got caught up in it. Getting admitted to the top flight is the crowning of a dream."