Three women referees from France, Brazil and Mexico made history on Thursday Dec. 1 as the first all-women referee team to take charge of a men’s World Cup match for the first time in 96 years.
France’s Stéphanie Frappart was appointed head referee, along with two assistant referees, Brazil’s Neuza Back and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina, to officiate the group stage game between Costa Rica and Germany.
The US’ Kathyrn Nesbitt was also selected as the offside specialist.
Frappart, 38, already made history on Tuesday Nov. 29 when she became the first woman to officiate at a men’s World Cup as the fourth official during the Poland vs. Mexico Group C match.
Her accolades also include being the first women to referee a women’s World Cup final in 2019, a men’s Champions League match in 2020, and both the men’s World Cup qualifier and men’s French Cup final in 2021.
“We know the pressure,” Frappart told BBC Sport, “But I think we will not change ourselves. Be calm, focused, concentrate, and don’t think too much about the media and everything, just be focused on the field.”
The significance of women referees at the World Cup marks a power statement, especially in a host nation where gender equality and women’s rights are limited.
Many fans have taken to social media to celebrate the historic designations.
“For once I can applaud something FIFA does: the first female referee in a WC match!” one wrote. “It’s late, it’s not enough, should not hide the extent to which women are discriminated in football (as athletes but also in football governing bodies) but in itself it’s positive and powerful.”
Frappart is one of three women, including Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Japan’s Yamashita Yoshimi in the pool of 36 candidates on FIFA’s World Cup referee list this year.