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A Female Team of Referees Will Be in Tokyo

by Claudio Bluck

Infobae, an Argentine media outlet, dedicated the following note written by Fracisco Taveira, to the Argentine arbitration pair that will represent America at the Tokyo Olympics. We reproduce it for you:

A teacher and a lawyer will make history at the Olympic Games: who are the Argentines who will have an unprecedented role in Tokyo

Inés Paolantoni and Mariana García will become the first female duo in America to officiate as referees in the handball tournament. How they apply the concepts of their daily activities in sports and the constant sacrifice behind their dreams

Inés Paolantoni is a lawyer. She works as a judicial trustee for the Ministry of Public Works and is studying to obtain a master’s degree in public administration. Her colleague, Mariana García, is a physical education teacher and also attends the University (UTN de La Plata) with the aim of receiving a degree in systems engineering. And together they will make history at the Tokyo Olympics.

Within days of embarking on their adventure to the Japanese capital, the Argentines will become the first female duo in America to refereeing the handball tournament in an Olympic event. “I am going to fulfill the dream of any amateur athlete. I played until I was 25 years old, with calls for the National Team, but I will go to the Games from another place. The Argentine reality made me choose between working and studying or playing and I had to dedicate myself to something else. In the end I became an athlete, but from another role, ”says Paolantoni in dialogue with Infobae.

“Every day  is more close and we are very happy. We love being the first women in America to refereeing at in Olympics Games. Hopefully we are not the only ones and that in a few years there will be more women from the region who may be there, ”adds García.

They had to make a daily sacrifice to fulfill the dream that had trapped them since adolescence. Both complement the demanding morning workouts with their work and university days.

The alarm clocks go off between 5:30 and 6 in the morning. Routines vary depending on their activities, but in their schedules there is practically no place for leisure. “It makes me want to cry when I think about it,” reflects Mariana with a laugh, although she clarifies that they currently have more free time because they are not active on weekends due to the pandemic. “I have been a girlfriend since the quarantine began and all these measures helped me to maintain the couple,” she continues with her share of humor. However, when she returns to being serious again   she highlights the difficulties imposed by the new normal: “Today we have against  a not having competition, because everything is still stopped in Argentina. The only parties that we are directing are the internationals ”.

The presence of the albiceleste binomial in the World Cups and the Pre-Olympic Games served for the authorities to choose them to shape the referees nominations in Japan. “We had to direct the teams that qualified and from the organization they told us that they were going to send us an email with the confirmation of our call for Tokyo. Since that day we have not stopped pressing F5 to the inbox. It was an eternal wait, until one day Mariana told me to go to my mailbox to see the email. It was very exciting, ”explains Inés.

As a good lawyer, Paolantoni applies the resources of law in handball “because the regulations are much more than the sum of the articles.” “You have to understand that everything has a meaning and a purpose. You have to know the spirit of the law to apply any sanction. That happens in life and on the playing field ”, he argues with a speech that does not give rise to debate:“ There is a relationship with regard to mediation, conflict management, crisis situations… We arbitrators are solvers conflicts through the regulations, personality, empathy or understanding the context … We prevent what might happen in each game. When you see that two players look at each other badly due to some friction, one intervenes to calm the spirits. More than once I warned a player telling her that she had seen everything that was happening ”.

The memory of Paolantoni is installed in what happened in a match that the Netherlands and Cuba played during the last World Cup. In the duel corresponding to Group A (December 2019) the island goalkeeper roughly collided with a European striker, but since the blow occurred within the area, there were no regulations that would allow a disciplinary sanction to be applied to the Cuban. “The Dutch woman complained to me and I told her that she was right, but she had no tools since the regulations. After insisting so many times, she pushed me and I had to send her off for two minutes because there cannot be a contact between the player and the referee. When she finished the game she came to me to apologize, and I commented that she didn’t have to apologize because she was right. I had no choice but to punish her for the contact, because if she had put me on a level with her, she would have ended everything badly ”.

His experience as a sports authority and his background in conflict resolution give rise to establish a comparative uchrony about the actions of Néstor Pitana in the final of the League Cup, when the missionary pushed the player out of Columbus Christian Bernardi. “I would never ever do that. If you invade the player’s personal space, how are you going to ask the player not to treat you in the same way? What would have happened if Bernardi had pushed him to the referee? I sure would have expelled him. And it would have been the most unfair ”, he emphasizes.

“Once a player made a pile of his fingers at me because I had not given a penalty and I disqualifiying him immediately, because it was disrespectful. He told me that I had to understand that he was running with beats at 180, but I replied that I was running the same as him and that I would never disrespect him. There he understood it and he agreed with me ”, he completes.

For Mariana García, on the other hand, her treatment with her students is totally different from the one she has with the protagonists of handball. “With the boys I am much more pedagogical, because with them I do not have to impart justice, my duty is to teach and educate them. The only thing I keep is my face, which is something that I have left from the refereeing. Everybody when they look at me thinks I’m angry, because I’m always serious, ”she confesses.

The teacher understands that “pedagogy is applied in all aspects of life.” “In minor categories it is much more noticeable, but at the elite level, where there are professional players, not, because it is not our task to educate them,” she analyzes.

Less than a month into their adventure in Tokyo, both are aware that it will be an atypical Olympic Games. “It will be strange, because they have already sent us all the preliminary indications that include the application of a terminal in which we have to load the daily temperature, if we had close contact with someone infected or if we suffer a symptom. They also asked us to isolate ourselves 14 days before traveling and to minimize contact with other people. It will be like a Big Giant Brother. We will be in what they call the red bubble, which is the one that has contact with the teams. Therefore, we will not be able to go anywhere: our life will be on the court, the room and one of the 3 restaurants that we will have at our disposal. And if someone breaks the bubble, he goes back home ”, Paolantoni details.

“We are going to have tests every day and we are not going to be able to go see another sport, something that could be done in other editions of previous years. For us it would be the same if the Games were held in Córdoba, La Plata, Paris or Tokyo, because we are not going to be able to go anywhere ”, adds García.

For them it will be their first Olympic experience. The conditions imposed by the pandemic will not change your happiness, or your emotion. As one of her students told Mariana, their lives will change after her foray into Japan. “There are some kids who told me that they are going to ask me for autographs. I laugh, because I am not going to stop being his teacher. Nor is it that I am a recognized athlete, we are simply referees who have to be in the background, because the real protagonists are the players and the athletes ”. Maybe everything will change when they begin to apply justice at the Yoyogi National Stadium. When they run their first game, they will already be making history.



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