Stéphanie Frappart to make history as the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match


When the referee makes column inches, it’s usually some sort of indictment of their performance; the result of the uproar after a controversial decision.

But Stephanie Frappart’s traditional anonymity is broken for another reason – she will make history on Thursday as the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match.

The Frenchwoman will form part of a trio of female referees for the Group E match between Costa Rica and Germany, along with assistants Neyza Back of Brazil and Karen Diaz of Mexico.

The six female match officials at this World Cup are referees Frappart, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita, as well as assistant referees Beck, Diaz and American Kathryn Nesbitt.

FIFA announced their appointment in May when Frappart learned they would travel to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“It’s a surprise, you can’t believe it and two or three minutes later you realize you’re going to the World Cup. It was amazing not only for me, but also for my family and for the French judges,” he told CNN Sport.

Throughout his career, Frappart achieved seemingly endless firsts.

Stephanie Frappart will take charge of the Champions League group stage match between Real Madrid and Celtic FC in November.

In 2019, she became the first female referee to officiate a Ligue 1 match, in August 2019 the first woman to officiate a major European men’s match, and in 2020 the first woman to officiate a men’s UEFA Champions League match.

“I knew my life had changed after 2019 because most people recognized me on the street,” Frappart recalls.

“That’s why I’m a role model for female referees, but I think [also] encouraged some women in society or companies to take on more and more responsibility.’

At this World Cup, Frappart became the fourth official twice – the first female official at a men’s World Cup match in Mexico and Poland. Mukasanga and Yamashita were also the fourth referees in games two and four of this World Cup.

But there is an obvious tension between these historic moments of gender equality in football and where they are taking place in Qatar, where women’s rights are severely restricted.

According to Amnesty International, women in Qatar remain tied to a male guardian – often a father, brother, grandfather, uncle or husband – and require their permission to make important decisions such as marriage, reproductive health care and many government jobs.

CNN reached out to the Supreme Committee on Supply and Succession (SC) for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

“I have been to Qatar many times… I was always welcomed in a good mood to prepare for the World Championship. “I don’t know what it’s like to live there, but I haven’t decided to go there or organize the World Cup,” says Frappart.

“So, 10 years later, it’s hard to say one thing, but I hope … this World Cup will improve the lives of women there.”

At the World Cup, football’s biggest stage, the pressure to officiate is at its highest.

According to Sky Sports, a referee can make 245 decisions in a game, and if even one goes wrong, it is analyzed in microscopic detail.

It can change the course of a game or even a team’s World Cup – denying them the title or ensuring they progress further in the tournament.

“Whenever you make a mistake, it’s more important than when a player makes a mistake – the consequences for the teams are bigger,” says Frappart. “Also, when we lose it’s easy to say it’s the referee’s fault and not our team’s fault.”

As umpires work their way up to the highest echelons of the game, that pressure changes.

“It’s more from the media and [about] money, because you know that every decision is important and will make a difference for the team, “said Frappart. “But when you start in local clubs, it is more difficult with the spectators and the environment.”

Stefanie Frappar talks to the players during the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers between the Netherlands and Latvia in March 2021.

Inevitably, female referees are also heavily scrutinized as they navigate two traditionally male-dominated fields: football and leadership.

“There were a lot of questions when she was there because she was a woman, maybe she wouldn’t obey the game and everything,” recalls Frappart when she made her Ligue 1 debut.

“It’s not just in football, I think in every job when you’re a woman … you have to prove that you’ve got the quality and then they’ll let you move on.”

But as Frappart refereed more matches, the attitude towards him changed.

“Now this is not a gender issue. Now it’s just a question of steel, [about] competencies. So now everything is fine, after a couple of games they left me alone and no other media.”

When Frappart first started playing soccer in 1993 at the age of ten, women’s soccer barely registered as a significant feature of the sporting landscape.

The inaugural Women’s World Cup was held in China two years ago with great success, but there was no women’s Champions League in Europe, no National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US, and no professional female referees. -there is.

It was only in 2017, when Bibiana Steinhaus took charge of a Bundesliga match, that a woman took charge of a top-flight men’s league match.

The appointment of Costa Rica manager Luis Fernando Frappart as a referee at the men’s World Cup is yet another step in a “very sexist sport,” Reuters reported.

“It’s very difficult to get to the point he’s reached, and I think it’s good for football and a welcome step for football to show that it’s opening up for everyone,” he added.

Similarly, in Rwanda, Mukansanga recalls never having seen a female referee use a role model for her own desires.

“I worked hard and followed men’s dreams because they were the people around me,” she told CNN Sport.

“They are all men. We had a referee here in Rwanda who went to the World Cup twice and he inspired me a lot and I worked hard to be like him.

Salima Mukansanga becomes the first woman to referee an Africa Cup of Nations match in January 2022.

With women refereeing and matches at the World Cup in Qatar being shown to large audiences around the world, Frappart hopes it will encourage more women to take up the whistle.

This change is already happening – in the UK alone, the number of qualified female referees increased by 72% between 2016 and 2020, according to the FA.

“So if you have more judges on TV, maybe that makes it easier for women to say, ‘OK, this is possible.’ Because if you don’t know it’s possible for us, you can’t say, ‘Okay, I want to be fair.'”


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