An all-female refereeing team will make history tonight when they take charge of a men’s World Cup match for the first time.
French official Stéphanie Frappart will referee the crucial Group E match between Germany and Costa Rica in Qatar, assisted by Brazil’s Neuza Back and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina.
The milestone appointments have been welcomed by both managers, with Germany coach Hansi Flick saying he trusts officials ‘100 per cent’, while Costa Rica boss Luis Fernando Suarez described it as a big step forward for the ‘very sexist’ football industry.
The 38-year-old Frappart is no stranger to refereeing major matches. He took charge of matches in the Champions League and the 2019 UEFA Super League Final between Liverpool and Chelsea.
French official Stéphanie Frappart will whistle for the crucial Group E match between Germany and Costa Rica in Qatar
Neuza Back publicly humiliated by Brazil’s 1970s hero Jairzinho, who told her to ‘go do the laundry’ after a controversial decision in the Copa do Brasil – comments for which he later apologized
But the flagship of the international football competition, watching with the eyes of the world, represents an important step forward.
Back has come a long way since she was grabbed by the neck by an intruder on the pitch and publicly humiliated by Brazil’s 1970s hero Jairzinho, who told her to “go do laundry” after a controversial decision in the Copa do Brasil – comments he later apologized for.
The 38-year-old works out seven days a week, lifting weights and running at least 6km a day at her home in Jundiai, São Paulo.
She also meticulously studies videos of games, including her own, often analyzing tight offside calls to see where she can improve – an attitude that has seen her score up to 100 games in Brazil’s top flight.
Meanwhile, for Diaz Medina, also 38, it’s the culmination of a rags to riches story that began with her officiating matches as a youngster in Aguascalientes for just 55 pesos (£2.34).
According to reports, assistant referees can earn around €2,500 (£2,141) for each World Cup group match they participate in.
Diaz Medina’s first experience with referees came by chance when she was asked to fill in for an official who didn’t show up while she was working at a sports center snack bar.
Despite also having a degree in agro-industrial engineering, soccer has always been her main passion, and she made history in 2020 by becoming the first woman to compete in the Mexican Liga MX final.
For Karen Diaz Medina, also 38, this is the culmination of a rags to riches story that began with her officiating matches as a youngster in Aguascalientes for just 55 pesos (£2.34).
Back works out seven days a week, lifting weights and running at least 6km a day at her home in Jundiai, São Paulo
Cristiano Ronaldo poses with Stephanie Frappart, who was the fourth official for last week’s meeting between Portugal and Ghana
Brazilian assistant referee Back runs down the sidelines during the FIFA Club World Cup 5th football match between Ulsan Hyundai of Korea and Al-Duhail of Qatar at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium
Diaz Medina ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and Australia
Back has come a long way since being grabbed by the neck by a pitch invader
The daughter of a kindergarten teacher and a technology company employee, Frappart grew up in a football-crazy family in Val d’Oise, north of Paris.
Her father played at the amateur level before working for the multinational conglomerate 3M, while her two brothers also whistled as they grew up.
She herself started playing football as a young girl before taking charge of children’s matches at the age of 13.
As she progressed through the amateur ranks, Frappart used some clever pre-game tactics to shake off any preconceived notions of male players, including testing the balls by bouncing them with her hand and then subtly testing her own skills with her show feet.
Now, a quarter of a century after she first picked up the whistle, she is preparing to perform on the biggest stage of them all.
Costa Rica boss Suarez said at a press conference: “I admire everything women have overcome and I like that they want to keep conquering things.
“This is another step forward, which speaks volumes about this woman, about her dedication to doing things.
“And especially in this sport, it’s very sexist. It is very difficult to get to the point she has reached.
“I like it, it’s a situation that’s good for football, it’s another positive step. It means that football becomes more accessible to everyone.
“One good thing about football is that it has always been democratic and this is also a very democratic step.”
Back also meticulously studies match videos, including her own, often analyzing tight offside calls to see where she can improve – an attitude that has seen her score up to 100 games in Brazil’s top flight
Frappart (R) greets Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez (C) after the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Real Madrid and Celtic last month
Frappart, pictured calming down Jordan Henderson, also took charge of the 2019 UEFA Super Cup Final between Liverpool and Chelsea
His counterpart, Flick, also supported the historic decision to appoint Frappart – who broke ground last week by becoming the first female fourth official in the men’s league – for the match at Al Bayt Stadium.
Frappart has already broken new ground in Qatar by becoming the first female fourth official in the men’s last week.
He said, “I trust her 100 percent. I think she deserves to be here for her achievements and her achievements.
“We are looking forward to this game and I hope she is looking forward to this game too. I think she will perform very well.’
Frappart’s profile has soared in recent years, after breaking through the glass ceiling to referee in France’s second division, then the top division, Ligue 1, before making her mark on the continental podium by appearing in the Champions League and Super Cup.
She even beat French star striker Kylian Mbappé to become number 1 on L’Équipe’s list of the 30 most important personalities making French football.
Those who have worked with her in France describe her as “charismatic” and “diplomatic” on the field, as well as “human and humble.”
Frappart told Le Monde last year: “I’ve always said … judge me by my ability, not by my gender.”
Speaking to BBC Sport before the tournament, she added: ‘Since I started I’ve always had the support of teams, clubs and players.
“I was always welcome in the stadium, so I feel like a different referee on the field. I was always welcome, so I think I will be welcome again as before.’