Svetlana Patras, a referee and trainer: “True football means passion, movement and, of course, team spirit”


Svetlana Patras, a 37 years old Moldovan woman, went from football player to FIFA international referee. However, Svetlana says the main achievement in her career is not the number of goals scored and international matches played but the number of children who smile due to the football events she organises. She has been managing the “Open Fun Football Schools Moldova” international project for 13 years. It is implemented in our country by the “Cross Cultures Project” Association (Denmark), with support from Moldovan Football Federation and Sweden. 

Svetlana Patras
Svetlana Patras, FIFA international referee. Photo Credit: Moldovan Football Federation

“I just happened to be in a football section. I was about 13. We just moved to Chisinau from Dubasari. 

We are 3 siblings in our family – my elder brother, my twin sister and I. At that time, my brother was already attending a sports school, and we used to go to the stadium every week-end to support him. At some point, my sister and I got inspired and decided to attend a training.  

Now things start changing but at the end of the 1990s football was not considered as a female sport as well. All our trainers were men. Many of my relatives and friends still don’t understand why do I play football. But I always liked football and I love my profession, and that’s it. 

At the age of 23, I finished my football player career, becoming a referee. I remember very well the first international match refereed by me. I was 25 years old, the match took place in Lithuania. It was something very unusual for me – yesterday I was a player, and now I am a referee. My dream came true, I became a FIFA international referee. 
The best part of my profession is my interaction with children. Since 2009, I have been working for the “CCPA/Open Fun Football Schools Moldova” international project. Within the project, together with the trainers, we organize football coaching sessions and fests for children across the country. At the beginning, we had a very low number of girls among our participants but today they represent at least half of the total number of participants. We are proud we managed to achieve gender equality within our project. One of the main goals of the “Open Fun Football Schools Moldova” project is gender equality, fight against stereotypes and prejudices. We do our best to encourage women’s involvement in social activities, as well as their active participation in basic football. 

Children in sports
“Open Fun Football Schools Moldova”. Photo courtesy of Svetlana Patras

One of the most recent achievements in my career is the development of the “Policy on protecting child rights in sport” with support from UEFA and “Terre des hommes Moldova” organisation. I have been studying this topic for 3 years, and I believe it is extremely important. My next goal is to increase the number of children with disabilities in the “Open Fun Football Schools Moldova” project and in sport in general. We have already started introducing a special programme that would help us in this regard. And we hope to receive support from local authorities in this difficult but very important matter. 

Despite an enourmous workload, I managed to build a wonderful family. My husband is a football player and trainer as well. We have a 7 years old son. At the age of 3, he was already running on the football field, and now he attends a sports institution for children and youth, and helps me at fests as a volunteer. 

It is not easy to be a woman in a sport considered as “male”. However, the true football doesn’t take into consideration stereotypes, it means passion, movement and, of course, team spirit. It is important to win but much more important is the team spirit during the match. Words can’t express this”.