French football referee Stephanie Frappart will become the first female referee to take charge of a men’s World Cup game when she leads the players of Germany and Costa Rica out on Thursday.
Frappart is one of the three women selected among the roster of thirty-six referees who are eligible to officiate during this tournament, accompanied by Rwandan Salima Mukansanga and Japanese Yoshimi Yamashita. Three more women are on the assistant referee list.
Appearing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is just the latest step in the meteoric rise of 38-year-old Frappart’s career. In 2014 she became the first female referee in the French second division, and then the first to officiate in Ligue 1 in 2019. This was followed by being the first woman to referee a Champions League match in December 2020. Reflecting this rise, she has been included in the latest edition of the video game FIFA.
In September, after having found out about her place in the Qatar roster, she said that “a World Cup is the pinnacle, the biggest competition in the world”. But she then added that rather than view it as a personal accomplishment, she saw her success as a step for the “enhancement of French refereeing”.
Even though Frappart’s success is a positive sign for the sport, there is still much to do to achieve greater equality in refereeing at the highest level. The pioneer for women referees in the men’s game was German Bibiana Steinhaus, who was the first female referee in the German Bundesliga, officiating between 2017 and 2021 and becoming the first woman in football history to lead a professional top division game in Europe.
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