Major League Soccer
US Soccer

Unkel ready for next step

Oct 29, 2013

Christina Unkel is relishing progressing her officiating career further as she prepares to travel to Jamaica for the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championships.

The 26-year-old got a taste for refereeing international tournaments in July when she was assigned to the U-20 Caribbean Football Union tournament in the British Virgin Islands.

But she considers the competition at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, which gets under way on Wednesday October 30th, as her first major international CONCACAF tournament.

It comes during the first year of her being on the FIFA panel and signals just how far she has come in officiating.

“I’m very excited for the U-17 finals. It’s a big honor to be chosen in my first year as a FIFA referee,” Unkel told

“There’s a good chance of not being selected for these types of tournaments so I’m really excited to be getting started - representing my country and representing the referees of the United States. 

“Becoming a FIFA referee is kind of like becoming a freshman again in college. You get to the top of your group, then you go to college from high school, and you feel like a rookie again, learning a new system as a small fish in a big pond.

“International refereeing requires an adjustment. It exposes you to different ways of how to referee the game, opens you up to different cultural backgrounds, different mindsets, and different psychological attitudes that one has to take into the match.

“There’s also more scrutiny, the requirements are higher, both physically and mentally, however people are ready to assist you along the way to continue to be successful – I have great supporting referee colleagues, and I’m looking forward to working with PRO’s support staff in the future.”

Unkel’s career with the whistle started at the tender age of 10 but she wasn’t aware that there was a ladder of progression to climb until she was 19.

That was when she immersed herself into the system, being surrounded by strong mentors, setting her personal targets along the way, with inclusion on FIFA’s panel being one of them.

Becoming a FIFA referee certainly hasn’t fazed her - Unkel possesses a unique attitude to momentous occasions, like international matches, and refereeing in general.

“When I learned more about the possibilities in officiating and the achievements one can get in the sport and the people you can meet, that was when, in my mind, becoming a FIFA referee became a target.

“My overall goal, though, is to just work my hardest and achieve the highest level I can, both internationally and domestically.

“Some people are nervous for days, weeks or months before matches and competitions but I don’t get nervous until the minute I realize the gravity of the situation, just before I blow the whistle.

“Then I think about what kind of a blessing and opportunity I have, and the games takes off, and any nerves disappear. My approach to refereeing is to enjoy the moment.

“To be considered as one of the top US referees, and be included on the FIFA panel representing the USA, just blows my mind. I always take in the moment and appreciate it all.”

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