Muaythai referee Merve Nur Öz from Turkey became the first Turkish female referee to qualify and be selected as an IFMA ITO.

Working as a classroom teacher in Tekirdağ’s Kapaklı district, Merve was introduced to the combat sport from Thailand at the age of 14 because her father and brother were muaythai athletes. Instead of entering the ring as a fighter, Merve decided to train and work hard to attain her qualifications to enter the ring as a referee. The Turkish Federation is one of the first federations  to truly embrace and advocate for female empowerment. Turkey’s muaythai federation developed female athletes, coaches and referees right from the onset to adopt the use of both the male and female figure on the national logo. 

Merve first received referee training in Turkey, then attended courses in Thailand before becoming the first Turkish female referee to be invited to take her referee skills to the next level and preside over international matches. Once she gained the necessary experience at international Merve was invited to become part of the IFMA ITOs who take part in the European Games in Poland, the World Combat Games in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is eligible to be invited to referee at the IFMA World and Youth World Championships, as well as future World Games.

“I’m trying to lighten the atmosphere with my smiling face.”

Merve , whose regular day job includes educating our future generations as a primary school teacher, said that as a Turkish woman, she is proud to take charge of the female bouts during IFMA competitions at all of the international championships.

Muaythai referees have to be strict and decisive but they do not have to have the fighter’s temperament or mindset. Though referees must be fit to be in the ring, it is a career pathway within the sport of Muaythai if you choose not to compete in the ring. It can be accomplished with hard work and dedication; anyone can become an International Technical Official using the same pathway I have done. 

Merve said her aim was to help the athletes feel more at ease as they enter the ring. She feels her petite frame and smile offers a friendly face to the young girls and women when they get into the ring before performing their wai kru. “I officiate each match with a smile. The athletes and coaches are already stressed so I try to soften that environment with my smiling face.” Merve believes that the friendly management of both athletes and coaches is truly appreciated, even by the athletes who lost their match, and that this makes her happy to be able to connect through friendship and respect with the athletes. 

Merve emphasized that she has adopted the principle of being a person that her students will see and take as an example. She wants her students to strive for and work towards the goals they set for themselves.

“Everyone should have a goal and work hard for that goal. Labor always brings success. I dreamed and set a goal. I worked and struggled for that, I got where I wanted. I hope we will have students and young people who take me as an example. A classroom teacher should have knowledge on every subject.” It is necessary. She needs to have a little knowledge of everything: music, sports, painting, dance. Because we shape children like dough. Whatever we add, children develop and grow according to the example they take. Based on this, I took part in the sport of muaythai. If I can be an example to my children, “If I can make them dream, I’m happy.”