On the big stage: Six women make history at the 2022 World Cup – and will soon be the norm?

Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes, and in women’s football there are women on the pitch, of course. Really?

Football is largely divided into two genders: Men are active in men’s football, women in women’s football. Slowly, however, the tide is turning and more and more women are joining the other sex. Now they will even be in the spotlight on the very big stage: Fifa, which has already appointed female referees for the 2021 Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar and for some of the men’s World Cup qualifiers, is banking on women’s power at the upcoming World Cup.

From all parts of the world

The six women active in Qatar come from (almost) all Fifa continental associations. Only the Oceania Confederation (OFC) is not represented by a female referee, while the North and Central American Concacaf is represented twice.

  • Asia (AFC): Yoshimi Yamashita (referee, Japan)
  • Africa (CAF): Salima Mukansanga (referee, Rwanda)
  • Europa (UEFA): Stéphanie Frappart (referee, France)
  • North America (CONCACAF): Karen Díaz Medina (Mexico), Kathryn Nesbitt (USA) (both assistant referees)
  • South America (CONMEBOL): Neuza Back (assistant referee, Brazil).

They have all already made history, on the one hand at national level …

  • 2009: Neuza Back in Serie A
  • 2015: Kathryn Nesbitt in the American MLS
  • 2016: Karen Díaz Medina in the Liga MX
  • 2018: Salima Mukansanga in the National Football League
  • 2019: Stéphanie Frappart in Ligue 1
  • 2022: Yoshimi Yamashita in the J1

…. But on the other hand, they are also international:

In addition to the three women who played in Champions League matches for their continental association (Frappart, Nesbitt, Yamashita), Neuza Back, for example, was also on the sidelines at the FIFA Club World Cup.

Frappart, Díaz Medina and Nesbitt were used for World Cup qualifying matches. Frappart was the first female referee on 27 March 2021, while Díaz Medina was the first female assistant referee on 24 March 2021, making her the first ever match official at a World Cup qualifier – along with compatriot Francia González as an assistant in a parallel match.

Mukansanga also refereed the 2022 African Nations Cup, while Frappart was a fourth official at Euro 2021. Nesbitt and Frappart have experience in the Uefa Nations League and Concacaf League respectively, Nesbitt even as an assistant in the final.

And now they are spearheading the team again.

The hope: It won’t be their last men’s World Cup

All six women are in their 30s, so they can play in at least one more men’s World Cup. Who knows, maybe one of the participating teams will even have a woman on the bench then?

In any case, Pierluigi Collina was already very open to women referees in men’s football: “I would like to see the selection of elite women referees for important men’s competitions in the future as something normal and no longer a sensation.” His word in football’s ear.

Fifa, CAF and Concacaf are showing the other continental associations how quickly it can happen that female referees not only make history, but become the norm. And then everyone should realise that football is football and refereeing is refereeing.

This article first appeared in German as a column of “Frauen reden über Fussball” (Women talk about football) at WebDE.