Taking criticisms and turning them into lessons spurred on Solomon Islands’ first female FIFA-accredited centre referee
A passion for sport has turned into a dream come true for Solomon Islands football referee Shama Maemae.
The 29-year-old from Fataleka in Malaita Province created history by becoming the first female Solomon Islander to be awarded a FIFA badge as a centre referee.
Maemae is one of seven Solomon Islanders to receive FIFA accreditation this year.
Her achievement, as well as her resilience and determination, have been widely praised in Solomons, where women continue to face challenges as they try to establish a foothold in traditionally male-dominated sports and careers.
“It was not an easy journey,” Maemae said.
“I’ve faced criticisms doing what I do, but what kept me going was taking those criticisms and turning them into lessons. This pushed me to work even harder.
“I am beyond happy and thankful for getting this achievement. To know that my hard work has paid off is rewarding.”
Maemae’s life-changing decision
Maemae’s journey to becoming a referee started in high school, where she loved playing sports, especially football and athletics.
She was introduced to refereeing in 2014 when another Solomon Islands referee spotted her potential.
Maemae said her decision to attend referee training with the support of her family changed her life.
“I agreed straight away to attend training, and although it was something completely new to me, I was willing to learn,” she said.
“I started my days at 5am as I was juggling school, work, and training at the same time.
“It was tiring, and I never really had much rest. Eventually, I decided to focus full-time on refereeing.
“It was a tough decision but one that I was committed to work towards.”
Earning the FIFA badge
In 2017, Maemae officiated in her first-ever international match as an Assistant referee for the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Women’s U17 World Cup Qualifiers in Apia, Samoa.
She then officiated at the Women’s Nation Cup in New Caledonia in 2018 before switching to centre referee in 2019 at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in the Cook Islands.
Since then, she has developed an impressive resume, officiating at tournaments in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, and the recent Pacific Games in Honiara.
“With all the international matches that I officiated, it was a step further from refereeing in local leagues at home,” Maemae said.
“So not only did it give me experience, but I did my best, worked hard, and I believe it was the assessments from the job done in these matches that earned me the FIFA Badge.
“While I am humbled and grateful for this achievement, I see this as another step in my career with more room for improvement. Now my aim is to work harder so that I can achieve more goals such as officiating in any World Cup matches.”
Mamae also thanked those who supported her career, dedicating her achievement to her family and acknowledging her colleagues for their continuous support.
‘Courage and commitment’
Next month, she will head to the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Oceania Qualifier in Samoa, where she will be officiating for the first time as a FIFA-badged centre referee.
She’s looking forward to the tournament and said she would do her best to show that she deserved to be accredited with a FIFA Badge.
Maemae encouraged more women and girls to consider refereeing as a career.
“All it takes is courage and commitment. Do not worry about the criticisms or the negativities. These are what makes you strong.”
By Eliza Kukutu
This story is supported by ABC Pacific & Women in News and Sport (WINS).