Turning heads on and off the pitch

Turning heads on and off the pitch
Ms Fernanda Colombo Uliana.

Football is a sport seemingly dominated by men.

But if you were in Brazil watching a Copa do Brasil (Brazilian equivalent of the FA Cup) match recently, you may be forced to change that impression.

Especially when an assistant referee caught your eye more than the game.

So who is this official who has become an Internet sensation and has fans waxing eloquent over her?

The referee is a "she", and a stunning one at that.

With blonde hair and a svelte figure to match, 25-year-old Fernanda Colombo Uliana has been turning heads in the packed stadiums of football-mad Brazil, Mail Online reported.

She has been officiating for some time and will officiate a big match today.

The match between Brazil's two big clubs - Atletico Mineiro (which boast former Barcelona superstar Ronaldinho) and Cruziero - will be her chance to show that she has not only the looks, but also the ability to manage stress, especially in a match of great importance.

Ms Uliana has had no problems keeping up with the heady pace of the games and has been praised for maintaining high professional standards.

When she is not on the pitch, she makes it a point to chill out on the beaches of Santa Catarina, a state in southern Brazil, of course in her bikini.

Despite supporting the progression of women into top refereeing roles, Brazilian football has not exactly been a bastion of gender equality of late.

Lower league side Juventus de Santa Catarina's coach Celso Teixeira found himself in trouble recently for calling another female assistant referee, Ms Maira Americano Labes, "gostoso" - "tasty" in Portuguese - after being sent off during a game.

Ms Labes said she took no offence as she was concentrating on the game.

Teixeira said the comment was made by someone from the crowd.

On Instagram, Ms Labes said: "Beauty should pass unnoticed. I'm waiting for the day to come for women to be recognised for their work just like men."

Ms Uliana is among a host of women to have recently made their way into the male-dominated sport.

Last week, Portuguese manager Helena Costa, 36, became the first woman manager of a club in one of Europe's top two leagues when she was appointed to helm second-division team Clermont Foot in France.

Italian official and part-time model Elena Tambini, 25, is also on the rise in her home nation. She is predicted to officiate in Serie B (second division), Serie A (top flight) and in international matches in the future.

This article was published on May 11 in The New Paper.

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