Lucy May has her sights set on joining the refereeing elite after getting a glimpse of the future at the Dallas Cup.
The Drayton referee, who has officiated at Wessex League level in the men’s game, was selected to officiate at the high-profile youth football tournament in Texas, USA, which attracts clubs from all over the world.
And while the next generation of Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus and AC Milan players were among those on show, taking on players from Brazil, Mexico and USA, May hopes she can rejoin some of those players on the biggest stages of world football in the future.
The 22-year-old said: ‘The tournament was amazing. It was unreal because there was such a buzz about it over there.I was lucky enough to referee the young teams from Juventus, AC Milan and the Chelsea Academy and the quality of the football was amazing.
‘All of the players showed a lot of respect to all of the officials, which was great to see.
‘One of the Juventus under-15 players scored the best goal I have ever seen in my life. It was one of those moments when, even as an official, your mouth drops open and you want to clap.
‘He was just outside the centre circle, had nobody to pass to, so just hit the sweetest shot in the top corner. Everyone was stunned.
‘The football was some of the best I have officiated.
‘I was chosen to do the men’s tournaments from under-13s to under-19s. I was involved in 13 90-minute games in four days so it was pretty intense.
‘It was fantastic to work with so many different officials from different backgrounds and was a great stepping stone for me in the next part of my career.’
May is determined to make her mark in both men’s and women’s football but is focused on ensuring it happens at the right time as she builds up her experience.
She said: ‘The women’s game is my passion but the men’s game is my challenge.
‘My ultimate aim is to get on the Fifa international list on the women’s game and get into the Football League in the men’s game.
‘But I want it to happen in the right way. I don’t want to be rushed through – I want to go through if I’m good enough.’
Female officials came under intense scrutiny when Sky Sports duo Andy Gray and Richard Keys were sacked over their comments about Premier League assistant referee Sian Massey last year.
But May believes the unsavoury incident actually helped attract more female officials to the game.
She said: ‘Sian is one of my best friends and it was tough for her at the time.
‘I think what happened was hard for her but it made her stronger and I think it made all of us female officials stronger, too.
‘When someone tells you that you can’t do something or that you shouldn’t be somewhere, you want to prove them wrong that little bit more.
‘We ended up recruiting a lot more female officials on the back of that.
‘The whole thing just showed that certain people were out of touch and had been a bit left behind while the rest of the world has moved on.’