Ningbo, China, August 27, 2010 – Zorica Bjelic of Serbia will make history next month in Italy as she has been nominated as the first female referee to take whistle for the FIVB Men’s World Championship.
“I am really surprised and honored to be nominated,” said Bjelic, the only female FIVB referee in the world at present. “I have great expectations for the tournament.”
With 25 years’ experience of referee, Bjelic has taken charge in high profile events including the FIVB Women’s World Championship, the FIVB Women’s World Cup, the FIVB Women’s World Grand Champions Cup, the FIVB World Grand Prix and the FIVB World League, so she felt quite confident against the new challenge of top level Men’s Championships.
“I have whistled for men’s matches and I think it will not be very different,” she said. “Maybe the men’s match is more powerful, but nowadays the women’s match has also reached a very high level. I will get well prepared.”
Bjelic had played Volleyball for 13 years before facing two choices when she was 23. “I was injured and then I had two choices. First is to continue to play at club level and maybe two or three years later I will get injured again, and the second is to be a referee.”
Bjelic took the second one and became one of the only two female Yugoslavian referees at that time. One year later, she was the only one left.
“I think I helped open the door for female referees,” she said. Twenty-five years later, there are 37 female referees in Serbia’s top four Volleyball leagues and a lot more in the fifth league.
Bjelic, who has also had nine years experience as a Volleyball coach for junior players, believed “Volleyball is in her blood”.
“I really like the sport and the job of referee,” she said. “As a referee, I can watch very nice matches, meet people, have new friendship. And I like traveling and get to know different culture and history.”
Bjelic also practices Chinese Taiji at spare time. “Being a referee needs good concentration, and I think playing Taiji is a good way to improve concentration”
According to Bjelic, those women who would like to follow her steps should work hard on themselves in order to becoming a high-level volleyball referee.
“You have to learn from supervisors, delegates, your colleagues as well as players and coaches, I hope in the future there will be much more female referees than now,” she said.
For herself, Bjelic would love to continue her whistling career as long as possible.
“Now I am 44 and the age limit for referee is 55, I want to keep going like this.”