Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Traditionally, referees prefer to fly under the radar.
But after being named an official for women’s soccer at the 2020 Olympics Games, Chantal Boudreau can’t help but be in the spotlight when the games get underway on July 21 in Tokyo.
Boudreau’s latest high-profile assignment comes on the heels of officiating at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, but with the uncertainty of the Olympics proceeding over the course of the last year-and-a-half, this opportunity is one she isn’t taking for granted.
“It was extremely tough, and not only mentally, to realize that this might not happen at all,” she said. “For the last year, it was extremely challenging to stay focused and to stay fit in hopes that the Olympics may happen this year. So when the final email came through that, yes, the Olympics were happening and that I was selected to go, it was nothing but pure joy.”
Despite the excitement, Boudreau understands the gravity of the opportunity at hand. She was also recently shortlisted for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.
Boudreau, who describes her first experience at a World Cup as “a dream come true,” notes her biggest goal as of right now is to “perform well at the Olympics and then do what I can in the next two years to be on that final selection for 2023.”
“I’m just doing my due diligence to be not only physically prepared for this tournament, as we do have the best women’s teams in the world participating, but also to be mentally prepared for anything that comes during this tournament.”
Boudreau grew up playing soccer and played until the age of 24, but it was in university that she took to officiating as a source of income while she was attending school at the University of Saskatchewan.
Her prairie roots are a sense of pride for Boudreau, who was born and raised in Regina.
“To come from Regina and to be the first FIFA assistant referee coming out of the province is a very wonderful experience,” said Boudreau. “The support that I’ve gotten throughout my international career from Saskatchewan has been nothing short of amazing, because without the support from Saskatchewan and from Canada, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today.
“Getting the support that I have from not only the Saskatchewan Soccer Association, but other sport associations as well, it’s a very humbling experience.”
Boudreau relocated to Ontario in 2017 and received the call to Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2020 after officials were in need for Canadian teams that couldn’t cross the border to play with American teams in the league. It officially transitioned Boudreau into a full-time official with the MLS as an assistant referee for 2021 and she is now based in Park City, Utah.
Boudreau still holds her distinction as a Canadian official and is one of two Saskatchewan referees on the 39-person Canada Soccer referee list, along with her brother Daniel, who initially convinced her to attend a refereeing clinic back in 2010.
“Even though he’s my older brother, I like to say that he’s now following in my footsteps,” joked Boudreau, of Daniel who has his own assignment in the Canadian Premier League’s Kickoff in Winnipeg this summer.
Boudreau went on to win the Saskatchewan Soccer Association referee of the year award from 2012-14, after receiving the grassroots referee of the year award in 2011. She also participated in numerous officiating campaigns with Sask Sport to help develop more officials in the province and was the recipient of the 2016 Saskatchewan Sport Award for Female Official
If being one of a handful of female referees in a male professional sport isn’t enough of shattering glass ceilings, she also knocked down barriers by recently officiating a men’s World Cup qualifier between Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Knowing her goal of a spot on the officials list for the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Canada, United States and Mexico would be “amazing”, all of Boudreau’s current attention is on the task at hand in Tokyo.
“This is a major tournament for me as a referee.”