“If others can do it, why can’t I?” That seems to be the mantra that newly-crowned Miss World Singapore 2014 Dalreena Poonam Gil lives by.
Such an attitude has been key to the 20-year-old’s motivation to excel in two fields as different as chalk and cheese: pageantry and football refereeing.
On Saturday, the 1.71m lass edged out 19 other contestants to be named Miss World Singapore 2014 at One Farrer Hotel and Spa. She will now represent Singapore on the global stage at Miss World 2014 this December in London.
It was an “unexpected and awesome” triumph, said Dalreena, who had to juggle preparing for the competition with her responsibilities as a qualified referee – on top of working and studying part-time.
“When I got into the auditions, I was already very happy because it was something I've wanted to do since I was young,” she told Yahoo Singapore. “Pageantry and soccer refereeing, both are my passions; I just want to pursue both and do well.”
The beauty is the youngest of just three female officials here and holds a Class 3 licence, which allows her to referee school-level matches.
She was inspired to join the male-dominated profession by her father Maniam Ganesan, a former FIFA referee.
“I told myself that when I was older, I wanted to be that; he’s my role model,” explained Dalreena, who took up refereeing at 18.
She admitted that others usually struggle to match her refereeing to her elegant demeanor, especially as she’s a self-confessed vain-pot.
“When people think of refereeing, they think of a tomboyish girl,” Dalreena said. “When I went for the Miss World auditions, I told the judges and they didn’t believe me!”
The chief judge at Miss World Singapore, Dr. Woffles Wu, was amongst the surprised ones.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “You get this gorgeous-looking girl [and] you can imagine her running around in her boots and referee attire… I think she’ll be a big hit [in London]. I hope they give her a chance to referee a match there!”
Dalreena’s father is fully supportive of both her pageantry pursuits and refereeing career. “At 20, I thought it’d be a good experience for her,” Ganesan explained. “If you don’t do it now, you won’t have a chance [in future]. Against all odds she won… and she now has an opportunity to excel even further on the world stage.”
Wu believes Dalreena’s poise, ability to express herself and “international appeal” will stand her in good stead, saying: “She‘ll do pretty well, I'm pretty sure she’ll get into the finals.”
Dalreena aims to become a full-time police officer, while still continuing to advance her refereeing certifications by training with the Football Association of Singapore.
“I want to be a FIFA-qualified referee by 24,” she asserted. “The greatest step [I can take] for now is to officiate in S.League matches.”
To do so, she’ll have to perform as well as the men in fitness tests, which she admits is “very hard”. But Dalreena can count on assistance from her father, who is now a FIFA fitness trainer for referees and an S.League referee assessor.
“My daughter says she’s really keen and she has the fitness capability,” Ganesan said. “I'm monitoring [her progress], from only being able to run 1km [in the past], now she can do 5km.”
He added that while refereeing is tough and involves many sacrifices, it can provide exposure to different people and even cultures: “If you reach FIFA-level as a referee, you can travel around the world [for tournaments] and have the experience of a lifetime.”
Ganesan’s belief in his daughter is backed by her own determined mentality.
“I’ve got to work very hard, but I think I’ll be able to reach there,” Dalreena concluded. “I'm confident enough; if they (other referees) can do it, why can’t I do it? If I can work hard, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”