A 26-YEAR-OLD Ilongga referee is the first Filipina to become a FIFA referee.
Jhesa Mae Palma Kaatz of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo said football has been her sport since she was young.
“Sang bata pa ako sadto, active na ako sa mga sports such as running, throwing, baseball, etc. Ang akon mama manugbaligya sang bulong kag manuglaba. Grade 4 ako sang nag-start hampang football tungod nagadala ako baligya like waffle and snacks sa plaza,” Kaatz said.
Amid their financial struggles, Kaatz got lucky after she received a scholarship offer from Jun Simundo to continue her high school studies.
In 2011, she started as a football referee through the help of FIFA Instructor Jaime “Toto” Nicolau III.
“Ginpalapitan ako ni sir kag nag ask sakon para mag join sa basic course for refereeing kag sya man naga-training sa akon kun may ara ako gina-preparasyonan nga fitness test. Sang 2012, naging volunteer coach ako sa Futbolilits sa pagdumala ni Ma’am Rowena Sumagaysay Silvederio. Tungod gusto ko man makabulig sa mga bata kay ini man nakuha ko sang una sa mga tawo nga nagbulig sa akon kung ano ako subong,” she added.
Kaatz dreamed of becoming a FIFA referee when she was in Vietnam for the International U14 Girl’s tournament in 2014.
She also met her German husband who happened to be a referee instructor that time. Her dream started to grow after a German Association chaired by Phillip Hagemann allowed her to officiate football games in Germany.
“Since this time nag-officiate na ako sa German league. In 2017, ang Philippine Football Federation (PFF) informed me that they plan to include me in the FIFA list. The group accepted me and in January 2018, I became the first Filipina woman FIFA referee.
“Sang May 1-13, nasa Indonesia ako to officiate U16 women’s championship. Ang akon highlight nga nag-officiate sa semifinals. Sang June, nasa Malaysia ako for International referee course. In July, I was again in Indonesia for AFF women’s championship. I officiated for the first time two international A matches. I am very thankful to my instructors Jaime ‘Toto’ Nicolau, Dennis Estaniel, Rowena Sumagaysay Silvederio, PFF and Allan Martinez. Thank you man sa Fussballkreis Münster, Germany kag sa mga tawo mga nag-guide kag nag-support sakon,” Kaatz said.
Nicolau said they are happy with the achievements of Kaatz in the international arena.
“Ten years ago, she was a player in Sta. Barbara National Comprehensive High School. Due to financial problem, she was forced to stop studying and helped her mother in their small business, making bukayu, serapina, fish cracker, salted peanut, etc. and deliver it to some small store or beside the school to cater their daily living. Nakita ko iya potential and gin train ko sila as chairman of referees in Iloilo,” he shared.
Nicolau said Kaatz is proof that with determination and hard work, all things are possible.
And as for Kaatz, she said that young athletes should work hard for their dreams because there are people who will always guide them.