Wednesday, August 8, 2012
The first NFL game refereed by a woman takes place in San Diego Thursday. But San Diego already has its own distinguished group of women in football.
SAN DIEGO Shannon Eastin will make history in San Diego Thursday when she takes the field to referee the Chargers-Packers game. She’s the first woman to officiate an NFL game. But women in football is nothing new for San Diego County.
Last weekend the San Diego Surge bested the Chicago Force 40 to 36 to become the Women’s Football Alliance National Champions. The team traveled to Pittsburgh to play in the semi-pro women's league Super Bowl at Heinz Field - normally home to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The WFA is made up of 62 teams and San Diego is actually home to two: the Surge and the Sting. The teams play tackle under the same, full-contact rules that NFL teams follow.
Surge lineback Knengi Martin has been playing in recreational and semipro leagues for 10 years and said her first championship feels awesome.
“We came together and put everything on the line this season and did everything we could to make this championship happen and it paid off for us. So it’s a really gratifying experience and part of the best thing is who I get to share this with – the teammates I get to share it with,” she said.
Martin and some of those teammates will be on hand to see Shannon Eastin make her historic NFL refereeing debut. The Chargers offered the team complimentary tickets to celebrate the championship.
Martin has no doubt Eastin will be as good as any of her male colleagues.
“It’s all about being around the sport from a young age and having it be acceptable for women to be part of football," she aid. "And that’s happening with youth female football players, it’s happening with coaching and now we see it with refereeing, so I’m really excited to see it.”
When Martin isn't honing her own football skills, she is one of the coaches of the team at Del Norte High School in northern San Diego. When Martin first tells people about playing football, she said they most often ask two things: whether she plays flag football and whether she's talking about that league that started as Super Bowl halftime entertainment where the women play in lingerie. But, she said, once they see a game, the confusion is gone.
"Once people see women playing football, they forget it's women," she said. "If you don't see them with their helmets off, sometimes its hard to know that it's not just anybody playing football."
The San Diego Surge play in Santee. Their regular season runs April through June.