The first ever female referee in Serie A whose journey began with flyer on moped

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The first woman to officiate a Serie A men’s match started her journey after finding a flyer outside her school.

Maria Sole Ferrieri Caputi, who made history after officiating Sassuolo’s 5-0 thumping off Salernitana over the weekend, claimed in an interview her path to becoming an elite referee was mere happenstance.

"I found a flyer on a moped, outside school, and we went with some friends,” she told la Repubblica. And the decision has led to a significant moment in Italian football.

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Indeed, she made history by leading the teams out at the Mapei Stadium, awarding a penalty in Sassuolo’s 5-0 victory over Salernitana.

“I felt the same emotion as any referee does at the start of their career, like someone who was dreaming of this moment for 16 years,” she told RAI Sport after the match.

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“It came true today, it was wonderful and there was a lovely atmosphere in the stadium. The two sets of fans gave me a very warm welcome, it felt like a celebration.”

Caputi has referred Serie B and Coppa Italia games before, along with other females in her profession, but the game at the Mapei Stadium was a history-making occasion.

She joined the referees' association in 2007 and started officiating Serie D, Italy’s fourth tier, in 2015.

In 2019 she oversaw two Women's European Championship qualifying games, before progressing and refereeing Serie C matches.

Sassuolo coach Alessio Dionisi said to DAZN: “I saluted her at the end, as I do with every referee. I don’t think we should talk about it too much, because then it seems like we are highlighting how unusual it is, whereas we ought to consider it normality. It makes absolutely no difference if the referee is a man or a woman.”

This season Natalie Aspinall became just the third female to officiate in the Premier League, for Wolves’ 0-0 with Fulham. She joins Wendy Toms and Sian Massey-Ellis as being the first three to do so.

France's Stephanie Frappart made Champions League history as the first woman to referee a game in the competition. In the Bundesliga, Bibiana Steinhaus was the first, though she is now retired.

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