Calladitas No More

In The United States, FIFA Referee Badges Are Hard To Come By, This Latina Is One Of Three Women To Have Earned One

By day, Christina Unkel is a litigation attorney whose work focuses primarily on the practice of business law and complex litigation. After hours, however, the Latina born in San Diego to a Guatemalan father and Honduran mother, can be found on the soccer field officiating matches and holding men accountable for their actions.

In a recent mini-documentary produced by Red Bull, the soccer referee talks about how she has come to command a field largely occupied by men.

Unkel has had a twenty-year career in refereeing and currently holds a FIFA Badge which allows her to officiate international games.

Credit: Red Bull

To say Unkel’s presence in a primarily male-dominated sport is anything short of bold would be a gross understatement. Referee titles and FIFA Badges are hard to come by for anyone with a career in the field of soccer. Particularly women.

For one, matching the tight requirements for eligibility is a lot like jumping hoops. Anyone trying to obtain a FIFA badge must be first be nominated, then pass a fitness test, and finally: be able to enforce the rules of the game in whatever corner of the world a scrimmage takes place. These firm stipulations mean slots for open FIFA badges are few and far between.

Unkel’s husband, Ted Unkel, also a referee, is only one out of seven men in the United States to hold the FIFA Referee’s Badge. For women, the tally of female FIFA Badge bearers is even smaller. Unkel is one of three women in the country to have a FIFA Badge, a label that allows her to referee professional soccer games abroad.

The Latina says her assertiveness and appreciation for fair play is a trait that has propelled her in her careers as both an attorney and a ref.

Credit: Red Bull

“I started when I was 10 because I liked to yell at the referees,” Unkel told Soccer Nation in an interview. “My coach was a referee and he told me I couldn’t yell at the refs unless I knew what I was talking about.” After taking a class for refereeing, Unkel explained that her continued outspokenness at games captured the attention of a referee who ultimately recruited her to be more involved in officiating.

Her presence on both the soccer field and in the courtroom is where her passion for her two careers clearly align. On her days in the office, Unkel says that she uses her subspeciality in gender equality work to help other women fight for fair treatement.

“Refereeing has helped me to become a litigator, I have a subspecialty in my law where I do gender equality work,” she explains in the 60 Second Red Bull doc.  “The passion to continue to break that glass ceiling and to be able to overcome those obstacles is what fuels me to push for gender equality.”

Check out a clip of the Latina athlete below!

Red Bull Media House and 60 Second Docs are story collaborating on a five-part micro-documentary series called Playing for Change, shining a light on five females who are breaking barriers and re-defining roles in the world of soccer. The series launches in conjunction with Neymar Jr’s Five – the Brazilian soccer star’s signature five-a-side global tournament where more than 100,000 male and female players celebrate their shared passion of footbal for a chance to play at the World Finals in Neymar Jr’s Brazilian hometown.

Read: After A Guatemalan Teen Asked Michelle Obama For Advice On Advocacy, The Former First Lady Told Her About The Power Of Female Support 

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This Is The Latina Calling The Shots On The Field For One Of The Biggest NFL Teams In The League

Running This

This Is The Latina Calling The Shots On The Field For One Of The Biggest NFL Teams In The League

Growing up, a lot of us hear from family members and teachers that to be “buenas chicas” we must act a certain way. Cross our legs, stay calladitas, and above all, stay away from climbing trees and being active and athletic. Fortunately, the NFL’s newest assistant coach gave sayings and assertions like these no mind. The 26-year-old is the Raiders’ first female assistant coach and these days she’s dictating shots on the field to NFL players.

Kelsey Martinez is the Raiders’ first and only female strength and conditioning assistant coach.

Martinez joined the league as an assistant coach to the Raiders in March of this past year. She’s the first female to join the team as an assistant coach, but she’s not the first in the NFL. That credit goes to Lee Brandon who became the Jets’ female strength coach back in 1990. In the years that followed Kathryn Smith became a full-time special teams quality control coach for the Bills and a season later Katie Sowers was brought on as an offensive assistant in 2017 for the Bills.

In an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, Raiders outside linebacker James Cowser spoke about what it has been like to work side by side with Martinez on the field.

“She’s super awesome,” Cowser, 27, said. “I mean, there’s a reason I went to Tom Shaw in the offseason, right? When I first met her, from the beginning, she opens her mouth, and you instantly know she knows what she’s talking about. It’s the same reaction here with all the guys. At first glance, you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a woman.’ And then they start talking, and it’s, ‘Oh, that’s a coach.’ You know what I mean? It’s that instant switch of, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ to, ‘Oh, I need to get my feet up.’

In a message to the Review-Journal, Martinez encouraged women and young girls to keep asserting and pushing themselves.

“Don’t create limits on yourself,” Martinez said. “There’s many excuses or whatever that can be made, but at the end of the day, what do you love to do? I was able to find what I love to do, and that’s working for Jon Gruden every day. ‘Do you love football?’ That’s his number one question. Do you love football? Do you love what you do? Why limit yourself or who you are if that’s what you want?”

Every day, there are women out there who, in the pursuit of their own personal goals, make a little more space for women in a world dominated by men. It’s so exciting to see a Latina like Martinez create a space for herself in a setting that was made for men. Today, no other other teams in the NFL has women listed on their strength and conditioning staff. Here’s to Martinez for becoming the one and opening doors for so many other women while doing it!

H/T Raiders Wire

Read: This Woman Who Is Married To A U.S. Military Veteran Is Getting Deported But Still Talks About Her Love For America Despite It Being ‘Full Of Hate’

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