Although female referees have increased their presence across male professional sports, from football to basketball, there are always bigger stages to conquer and glass ceilings to break. For the first time in the history of the men's World Cup—arguably the most popular sports tournament on a global scale—an all-female on-field referee team will officiate a match. “They were not selected because they are women, but as FIFA referees. They could officiate any game,” said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee in a statement before the tournament.
The officiating team is led by Stephanie Frappart, a French referee who was also the first woman to oversee a Ligue 1—France's year-long league—and a UEFA Champions League game. She will be joined by assistant referees Neuza Back, from Brazil, and Karen Diaz, from Mexico. Although some experts feared that FIFA would only green-light an all-female referee team for a low-stakes game, the women will officiate the Germany vs. Costa Rica match, where both teams are still in the fight for a place in the next round.
FIFA announced back in May that six women would be part of the list of referees to oversee Qatar 2022 games—three referees and three assistants. Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan round the list of referees, while Kathryn Nesbitt from the United States is the third assistant on the list. Nesbitt will also be at the Germany vs. Costa Rica match as an offside video assistant referee. So far, Frappart, Mukansanga, and Yamashita have made history at the Qatar 2022 World Cup with their appearances as fourth officials—that is, another assistant referee with more administrative duties for the match (like overseeing the substitution process) who keeps to the technical areas for most of the game, as opposed to making the calls.
“The men's World Cup is the most important sporting competition in the world. I was the first referee in France and in Europe, so I know how to deal with it,” Frappart told The Athletic in an interview days before the World Cup. “You know the importance of the game, but you know your own quality and skill. If they appoint you at this level, it’s because you have the quality for that.”
For the first time in the history of the men's World Cup, an all-female on-field referee team will officiate a match.
“They were not selected because they are women, but as FIFA referees. They could officiate any game,” said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee in a statement.
This Thursday, an all-female refereeing trio will take charge of a men’s @FIFAWorldCup match for the first time.
History in the making! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/KusT7SOUn9
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) November 29, 2022