The Edinburgh Cup: Young referee from Ukraine to volunteer her services for Edinburgh youth football event

An 18-year-old semi-professional referee from Ukraine is volunteering her services to an Edinburgh youth football event next week.

Mariia Zobenko, from Dnipro, was forced to leave behind her family and friends to come to Scotland when war broke out in Ukraine.

The 18-year-old had never stayed away from home before she travelled to Edinburgh. She said: “I am an only child and it was very distressing having to leave everything and everyone behind. I came to Scotland on my own but I knew that it was a country that loves football and already I have been made to feel so welcome.”

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Mariia was told she should stick to traditional female sports while growing up, but she has always dreamed of working internationally as a football referee.

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Being away from her home country has been tough for Maria, however the game has been a crutch for her to lean on. “It can be really lonely at times,” she said, “but I always know I have football and right now I am loving watching the UEFA Women's Euros.”

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After seeing an advert on Instagram about the Edinburgh Cup International Youth Football Festival, Mariia got in touch with the organisers to volunteer her services.

The Edinburgh Cup is one of the UK’s biggest and best football tournaments. This year, thousands of youth footballers and families from across the UK and beyond will be welcomed to Edinburgh for the 2022 Cup, which will be held at Peffermill Sports Village from August 5 -7.

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Mariia Zobenko, 18, recently fled Ukraine to come to Scotland.

Scott Gibson, Event Director of the Edinburgh Cup, said: “We are beyond privileged to have Maria on our team. She is a strong and courageous female with clearly a high level of determination.”

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He added: “With teams coming from across Scotland, England and Ireland the event will have a real feel of togetherness and showcase how open Scotland is.”

Mariia said she hopes The Edinburgh Cup will lead to further opportunities in football in Scotland. The 18-year-old has plans to complete her professional referee qualification here, and she is also hopeful that her family will be able to join her soon.

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Mariia hopes to complete her professional referee qualification in Scotland.