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Stephanie Frappart concentrates on the pitch, wearing a black shirt and a headset
Stephanie Frappart has gathered a wealth of experience refereeing matches a the highest levelImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance
SoccerGlobal issues

Referee Stephanie Frappart well-equipped to make history

Olivia Gerstenberger
November 30, 2022

FIFA could hardly have selected a more experienced official to become the first woman to referee a match at the men's FIFA World Cup. Stephanie Frappart has shown that she is completely comfortable on the big stage.

https://p.dw.com/p/4KHpN

Football's world governing body FIFA decided long before the World Cup in Qatar to make this tournament historic by appointing female referees to take charge of men's games at the sport's biggest event. Stephanie Frappart, a 38-year-old French official, is one of three selected to referee games, along with Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Japan's Yoshimi Yamashita. 

In fact, Frappart was selected to head an all-women's officiating team for Germany's 4-2 win over Costa Rica and Germany on Thursday that saw the 2014 champions exit the tournament after Japan shocked Spain. Neuza Back of Brazil and Mexico's Karen Diaz were her assistants.

Prior to the tournament, the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina, almost seemed to play down the historic nature of women taking charge of games at the men's World Cup. 

"It [the presence of female referees] is something new, it's something that attracts attention, it attracts interest," Collina told reporters.

"For us, they are referees, they are match officials. This is the message I gave them. 'You are here not because you are women, you are here because you are FIFA match officials'."

The Italian former FIFA referee stressed that their appointment was "proof that it is quality and not gender" that counts in the choice of officials to work the tournament.

'Notable by our achievements and not by our gender' 

Collina's sentiments are very much in line with those of the first woman to take charge of a men's World Cup game.

"We are more in the spotlight now," Frappart said before start of the tournament. "But I have always promoted the idea that we should be notable by our achievements and not by our gender." 

Luca Modric, Stephanie Frappart, Joe Hart
Weeks before the World Cup, Frappart took charge of a Champions League game between Real Madrid and CelticImage: Burak Akbulut/AA/picture alliance

Frappart took charge of her first men's match at the age of 19, and she has been officiating international matches since 2011. 

Despite being diminutive in stature, Frappart, who stands 1.64 meters (5 foot, 4 inches), has an authoritative presence on the pitch, directing the players with energetic gestures and clear instructions. 

"I'm not tall. I'm not as strong as some of my male colleagues," she said. "But I'll still make myself heard anyway." 

Recent steep career ascent

Over the past three-and-a-half years, Frappart has ticked off a series of achievements: refereeing a Women's World Cup final for the first time, becoming the first woman to referee a men's French Ligue 1 match, a men's Champions League match and a men's World Cup qualifying contest. 

She also became the first woman to referee a major final in men's football: the 2019 UEFA Super Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool. 

"It's about time," Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said at that match. "I am very happy that we can be part of this historic moment." 

Frappart's experience looks to have been tailor-made to become the first woman to take charge of a men's World Cup match, which may be why she played down the moment. 

"The football is the same, the rules are the same," she said. "It's no longer a surprise to see females refereeing men's games."

This article was adapted from German.

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