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A new milestone at Qatar 2022: Six female referees to lead the way

The FIFA World Cup has always been the tournament to watch, setting the benchmark in all football categories, from TV broadcasts to tactical innovations and also in refereeing.

Russia 2018 has set a new direction in using the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), which was widely adopted throughout the world in the next years, with the strongest competitions seeing an intense use of VAR.

At Qatar 2022, there will be a new premiere, ready to set the tone for the next steps in refereeing. For the first time in history, the FIFA Referee Committee has appointed three women referees and three women assistant referees to officiate games at the world flagship football tournament.

France’s Stephanie Frappart, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita are the three referees, while Brazil’s Neuza Back, Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina and USA’s Kathryn Nesbitt are the three assistant referees which will officiate games at Qatar 2022.

“We are very happy that with Stephanie Frappart from France, Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda, and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan, as well as assistant referees Neuza Back from Brazil, Karen Díaz Medina from Mexico and Kathryn Nesbitt from the USA, we have been able to call up female match officials for the first time in the history of a FIFA World Cup,” said the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina.

Stephanie Frappart, who will turn 39 years old during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is the most experienced of the trio, becoming the first woman to referee a French Ligue 1 match and an UEFA Champions League match in 2019 and 2020, respectively. One year later, she also led a FIFA World Cup Qualifying Match and in 2022 led the Coupe de France final won by Nantes against Lille, 1-0.

It just added to her excellent CV, which has also seen the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 and the UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool, a very strong performance, where she received plenty of plaudits.

Frappart was also named the IFFHS World’s Best Woman referee in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

“This concludes a long process that began several years ago with the deployment of female referees at FIFA men’s junior and senior tournaments. In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is quality that counts for us and not genders.”

“I would hope that in the future, the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational. They deserve to be at the FIFA World Cup because they constantly perform at a really high level, and that’s the important factor for us,” continued Collina.

Yamashita, 36, has also some continental records in her pocket, becoming the first woman referee to lead a game in the Men’s AFC Champions League while having also led games at the Women’s FIFA World Cup and at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Mukansanga, 34, is an international referee since 2012 and has made history by becoming the first woman to lead a game at the African Cup of Nations in 2022. She has officiated at the Olympics, FIFA Women’s World Cup, Africa Women Cup of Nations and CAF Women’s Champions League.

Her first love was basketball, according to the New York Times, but the lack of infrastructure in Rwanda hampered her progress. Therefore, she found football more accommodating and this is why she took up football and refereeing.

“I didn’t think it would ever be possible to officiate men’s games, so the World Cup wasn’t in my thoughts. As a Japanese person and as a woman, I feel great pride and responsibility on my shoulders, so I’ll do my best at the World Cup.”I wouldn’t say being a woman has been an advantage or a disadvantage.”

“And as a referee, I don’t see any difference between men’s and women’s football. I want it to be seen as perfectly normal for women to referee men’s games, so what is happening in Qatar needs to continue. I feel a certain amount of pressure to win everyone’s trust,” said Yamashita.

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