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By ESPN Staff

Female referee set to make history in Italy

ROME, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Anna De Toni will make history on Sunday when she becomes first woman to referee a match in the Italian men's professional leagues on Sunday.

De Toni, 28, will take charge of the fixture between Alto Adige and Lecco in Italy's fourth division, Serie C2.

"I'm just one of the 28 newly-promoted referees that has to show they can handle life among the professionals -- nothing more," De Toni was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday.

"If I'm here then it must be because somebody believed me to be capable of doing the job. All I have to do is prove them right."

De Toni, who has a degree in medicine from the University of Padova, began refereeing at the age of 15.

Last season she officiated at 16 matches in Italy's top amateur division, Serie D.

Asked whether she had ever been a target for intimidation by players or fans, De Toni replied: "I consider myself fortunate not to have had any bad experiences.

"I've taken charge of quite a few important matches and I've always been given respect, especially on the pitch.

"Besides, when you're out there you tend to just concentrate on the players and you don't notice what the crowds are saying."

De Toni's debut among the professionals continues the slow movement of women into the top levels of the Italian game.

In 1999, Carolina Morace became the first coach of a professional men's team in Italy when she took charge of third division Viterbese, while lineswoman Cristina Cini made her Serie A debut in 2002.