Qatar’s World Cup will always be the first World Cup. The first most watched sports event will be played in the Middle East. The first time will be played in November and December. And now it could also be the first men’s World Cup to have a game played by a female referee.
FIFA on Wednesday named three women from among the 36 referees selected to officiate the game and three others from a team of assistants to oversee the line-up for the month-long tournament. The third most likely candidate for the acting position is Stephanie Frappart, a French woman who has broken several barriers in European football.
Frappart, who made the list with female referees from Rwanda and Japan, has a reputation in European football and became the first female referee in the Champions League, French Premier League and World Cup qualifiers. He made history again earlier this month when he took charge of the French Cup final.
Frappart was also selected to join the management teams at the European Championships last season but his role was the fourth officer, a side-by-side activity between the opposing team’s benches.
In announcing its refereeing options, FIFA can now look to go one step further. Frappart joined the refereeing team are Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan. They, along with other officials who participated in the World Cup, will attend a seminar in preparation for the 32-team event.
“This concludes the long process that began several years ago with the deployment of female referees in the FIFA youth and senior competitions. In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is a quality that is considered for us and not gender, ”said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee.
North American women have also been selected to participate in the competition as assistant referees. Kathryn Nesbitt, who currently plays regularly in the Premier League, has joined Karen Díaz Medina of Mexico. Sell Back from Brazil is also included.
For FIFA, the drive to include more women on and off the field has become increasingly urgent with more research into how it manages the sport and the growing international interest in women’s football. More money than ever before has been invested in developing players and match managers. That, Collina said, should help make the appearance, and inclusion, of female referees less negotiable than it is today.
“I would like to hope that in the future, the appointment of elite women’s match officials for important men’s tournaments will be considered normal and not fun anymore. They deserve to be at the FIFA World Cup because they always do well at the highest level. , and that is what is important to us, ”he said.
Still, the environment and focus for female officers can be complex. Frappart faced a wave of abusive messages on social media before and after leading the French Cup match, in a game they won following a penalty shootout.
Frappart said before the game that he stays away from social media and rarely reads the media.
“Personally, I focus on what is happening on the field and I do not focus on arguments or debates about my play,” he said.