History as First All-Female Referee Team Officiates at World Cup

After 92 years of the Men’s FIFA World Cup, the universe finally witnesses an all-female officiating in Qatar

Neuza Back (left), Stéphanie Frappart and Karen Díaz leave the pitch after making history at the Al Bayt Stadium. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It was a moment of history on Thursday at the Men’s FIFA World Cup, as the world witnessed three women officiate the crucial match between Germany and Costa Rica, with France’s Stephanie Frappart at the centre of the game that saw the Manuel Neuer’s team bow out of the tournament despite their 4-2 win. The French woman was assisted by Mexico’s Karen Diaz and Brazil’s Neuza Back, while a man, American Katy Nesbitt, was on the job as the offside video assistant referee.

All of the officials selected for this tournament have a proven track record and have come through FIFA’s years-long selection process which has tracked their performances in multiple tournaments, including FIFA’s own junior and senior tournaments, other international and domestic competitions, and other FIFA matches.

Stephanie Frappart, assistant referee Neuza Back, and assistant referee Karen Diaz Medina, alongside Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas and Germany’s Manuel Neuer with fourth official Said Martinez, before the December 1, 2022, Costa Rica-Germany match, Al Khor, Qatar. © 2022 Molly Darlington/Reuters

For Frappart, she had it coming as she had also been the first woman to officiate in a major men’s European match, taking charge of the UEFA Super Cup game between Liverpool and Chelsea. In 2020, she became the first woman to call the shots in a men’s Champions League game between Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv, and in 2022 was in charge of the Coupe de France finals. She has won the World’s Best Woman Referee award three years in a row since 2019.

Stephanie Frappart

The Frenchwoman who became the first FIFA-qualified referee in 2009 had taken charge of the Mexico versus Poland game which ended in a barren draw. So, when the 38-year-old led the all-women referee team on the field at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Qatar to monitor Germany vs Costa Rica’s match, in arguably the most popular sporting tournament in the universe, all eyes were on them.

The Mexican assistant referee, Karen Díaz Medina loves the game and says that her job makes her fall more in love with the game each day. She was certified as a FIFA assistant referee in 2017 and has since built an impressive resume of matches having been involved in the 2020 Concacaf tournament, 2020 women’s Olympics qualifying, and age group tournaments for both men and women.

The 38-year-old Neuza Back from Brazil is an assistant referee in Brazil’s top league and has even officiated matches in the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, the Fifa Club World Cup semi-final, and the women’s Copa Libertadores.

Other female FIFA-approved referees in Qatar are Salima Mukansanga: A FIFA referee since 2012, Mukansanga is from Rwanda and has officiated in the Africa Cup of Nations and the Tokyo Olympics 2020 before being called up for the World Cup in Qatar.

Yamashita Yoshimi: The Japanese wielded the whistle in the 2019 women’s World Cup in France and now she is doing the same at the men’s World Cup in Qatar. Like Mukansanga, the 36-year-old was also present at the Tokyo Olympics. She has also refereed in the AFC’s Championships League and Japan’s J1 League games.

Kathryn Nesbitt: The 34-year-old American was the Major League Soccer Assistant Referee of the Year in 2020, the first woman to win the award. Nesbitt quit her job as an assistant professor at an American university to focus on assistant refereeing full time and after consistently performing well, including becoming the first woman to run the channel in an MLS Cup final, she has been called up for the Qatar tournament.

For Frappart who had been named three-time winner of the World’s Best Woman Referee award, given by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), she is living her dream and her passion for the round leather game.