First female referee for FIFA World Cup: Stephanie Frappart makes history
Stephanie Frappart of France is set to become the first female referee to officiate a men's FIFA world cup match, taking charge of the Germany vs. Costa Rica match. The 38-year-old will lead an all-female refereeing team for the Group E match of the World Cup, including Brazil's Neuza Back and Mexican Karen Diaz Medina. This is also the very first time all the officials in a World Cup match will be officiated by an all-female team, making her a part of a historic achievement of women's inclusion in the sport.
Even in women's football, referring is always associated with male referees conducting the match. This felt like a very discriminatory practice as it was not as much a case of competence, but more about representation, as there was this notion at play that maybe women will not be able to handle the pressure of an intense sport like football.
Things started changing in the last 25 years. It started when a team of 31 female referees was in charge of the third edition of FIFA Women's World Cup in 1999. The 2000 summer Olympics also witnessed female referees in all women's matches. Since then they have been also making headway in men's games as evident by the number of women referee's taking charge in top European leagues like England's Premier League, German Bundesliga, and French Ligue 1 among them. Their competence and their calm demeanour under pressure have earned them great praise and have showcased to the world how this change was needed in order for the inclusion of women in football.
Stephanie Frappart has been at the forefront of this change, fresh from taking charge of last year's women's world cup final, she has been associated with many firsts, the first female official to take charge of a men's Champions League match between Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv in 2020, the first to take charge of a men's world cup qualifier and she was also a fourth official in the Fifa World Cup 2022 match between Mexico and Poland, the very first time a female referee debuted in the global event.
Football as a sport cannot have a strong appeal if the other half of the world's population is not represented in every sphere of this wonderful sport. It is heartening to see FIFA signalled a strong sign of support by including female referees in the global showpiece event which will make inclusion and women empowerment happen on a broader scale, inspiring the future generations who are witnessing this achievement now.