Referee Lina Lehtovaara can already get acquainted with the Veikkausliiga during this season. However, Lehtovaara’s hard international displays do not open the bypass to the men’s main series.
In the largest men’s football leagues in Europe, women have been seen as referees in recent years, but the same has not yet been experienced in the Finnish main leagues. In the Veikkausliiga, the glass roof could be broken by a 40-year-old Lina Lehtovaara, who will judge the final of the Women ‘s Champions League between Barcelona and Lyon on the second Saturday in Turin. She is the first Finnish woman to share the main responsibility in that final.
Lehtovaara, who has been judging football for more than ten years, will be the referee at the European Women’s Football Championships starting in July. In this season’s Champions League, Lehtovaara will judge several times. He may also be seen at next year’s World Cup.
Chief of the Football Association Johan Holmqvist has noticed Lehtovaara’s well-developed refereeing career.
– I am especially happy and proud of his performance. This (Champions League final) is great from the point of view of Finnish refereeing and football. It is also a great achievement from Lina’s point of view, Holmqvist praises.
Lehtovaara’s goal is to become a referee in the Veikkausliiga. He has already served as the fourth judge in the Veikkausliiga.
He has been convicted of Men’s No. 1 since 2019. At first it was about so-called introductory matches. He started as the official referee for Ykkönen this spring.
– For example, the referee of Kakkonen can get individual reconnaissance matches to a higher level if he has done well at the level to which he has been appointed. You can get a reconnaissance match from Kakkonen to Ykkönen or Ykkönen to Veikkausliiga, Holmqvist says.
– With us, the referees rise in steps. For this term, the referee committee has appointed him Ykkönen’s referee. The next step is then the Veikkausliiga.
The competition is fierce
As Lehtovaara told Urheilu, all other Ykkönen judges are also aiming for the Veikkausliiga.
– Competition is hard. There are many referees pursuing the same cause. Of course, we follow all the referees closely, Holmqvist says.
– Judges’ performance is always judged in the series where they are each. Succeeding in the series will move you forward.
The Women’s Champions League, the European Championships in the summer and a possible World Championship contract next year are hard merits for Lehtovaara’s CV.
Holmqvist appreciates these achievements, but recalls that Lehtovaara is on the same line with the other Ykkösten referees.
– They (merits) will definitely help him as a referee.
Fitness is enough
In order to act as a judge in the Veikkausliiga, in addition to rule tests, tests measuring physical fitness must also be determined. Lehtovaara has developed its fitness properties in recent years. Speed has also increased.
Before the start of the season, the judges must pass a running test. Lehtovaara succeeded this spring, which helped him get to the One.
– Before Lehtovaara had his first Ykkönen match, he had to have a running test. The number one running test and the Veikkausliiga have the same running test, says Holmqvist.
The Veikkausliiga used to have age limits, but they have since disappeared. For Lehtovaara, who turns 41 in the summer, access to the Veikkausliiga is not a problem for her age.
– There are currently no upper age limits. All you have to do is show that you are in good enough condition and that the performance on the field is good enough.
Could Lehtovaara be seen as the Veikkausliiga referee next season, for example?
– Yes, it’s entirely possible. As well as the fact that he can get individual introductory matches to the Veikkausliiga already this season.