When she decided to take to the field at the age of 16, she had no idea what the future held. Malaga-born Bea Torres Corral was always one of those girls who played football with the boys during break at school. She never made it to competing as a player but, noticing how much she enjoyed the sport, a friend recommended that she should take a different path, that of refereeing. Eight years later, this young woman from Huelin is the province's highest-level female referee.
At first sight, perhaps this may not seem like a high level, but as Bea points out, "In Andalucía there is not a single woman who referees in the Third Division and, in fact, there are only two female main officials in the senior División de Honor. The other is María José Villegas, from Cordoba, who referees in the Liga Iberdrola and is waiting to see if she can move up to the Third Division this year." Despite a continual increase in female interest in football refereeing, women still remain in the minority, and even more so in the top men's divisions. Only a few months ago, two female referees made history: the first, Guadalupe Porras Ayuso, from Extremadura, became the first woman to make her debut as an assistant referee in La Liga (the men's top division); and the second is Marta Huerta de Aza, from Tenerife, who is the first female referee in Segunda B (the third tier).
These are isolated cases. In fact, the Spanish Football Federation's appointments for next season mean that just one more woman will appear in the first three divisions of men's football: Judit Romano García, from Asturias, assistant in the Second Division. However, despite much progress still to be made, these three women have paved the way for improvement. "Judit has achieved the most difficult thing. I think her example will motivate many more women so that the number can continue to grow. My dream, in the short-term, is to move up to the Liga Iberdrola and to the Third Division, but, looking further into the future, I want to get as far as I can," says Bea.
This young woman from Malaga has spent several years trying to climb the ranks, to no avail, but she does not want to stop fighting. Bea combines her passion with her profession as a nurse at the Clínica del Pilar. "In the end, doing something properly takes time, and here at work I am lucky to have been given the weekends off, because they know that I want to referee," Bea explains.
For Bea, studying has always been her priority. She urges young footballers to follow the same philosophy, despite their parents' ambitions. "Many parents pressurise their children to keep going with football. But it is important that children learn and enjoy the sport, not that they stop studying, because otherwise, in the case of a serious injury, they will have nothing to fall back on," Bea warns.
As she has climbed up through the rankings, Bea has moved from refereeing the youngest players to men who are bigger than she is, but she has developed the maturity to not fear these situations.
"Whether they are male or female, the referee always receives insults. Luckily, I have never received sexist comments, but it has happened to my colleagues, who have been told the typical 'go and do the washing up'," she says.