Some 92 years after the first match of the World Cup was held in Uruguay, Stephanie Frappart is about to become the first woman to be the main referee in a men’s match of the tournament. Frappart, a French referee, was named to an all-female referee squad in a crucial group stage match between Costa Rica and Germany on Thursday.
Frappart, 38, will lead alongside Brazil’s Neuza Back and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina. It’s a barrier-breaking moment that both coaches hailed and suggested was late.
“I trust him 100 per cent,” Germany manager Hansi Flick said of Frappart’s appointment. “I think she deserves to be here because of her performance and her accomplishments.”
Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suárez said the same during his pre-match press conference.
“I’m a big fan of everything women have conquered,” he said. “And I like that they want to continue to conquer things. And that’s another step forward, especially in this sport which is very macho.
Frappart told French reporters that she considered her selection as the main referee “a surprise”. Still, she had a stellar career spanning almost two decades. Originally from Plessis-Bouchard, a remote town in the far north of the Paris region, she refereed her first match in 2003 at the age of 19, a women’s match between Henin-Beaumont FC and La Roche-sur-Yon. In two decades, she was overseeing a Women’s World Cup final.
Since then, she has risen through the ranks like no woman before her, accumulating distinctions. In 2014, she became the first female referee-in-chief in a men’s Ligue 2 game in France’s second division. She then refereed matches in the men’s Ligue 1, in international friendlies and in the Champions League.
On August 14, 2019, Frappart also became the first woman to referee the UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool. After the game, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp praised his performance.
“If we had played as they whistled we would have won, 6-0,” he said.
Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of the FIFA referees committee, known for being tough on his colleagues, praises Frappart. “I hope there will be more Frapparts in the future and that this won’t be an oddity or a news anymore,” Collina told the Italian press in 2021. At the Globe Soccer Awards in 2019, Frappart won a prize as the best referee and Collina presented him with the trophy.
Frappart told French reporters she was “aware” that her presence in the tournament “is going to inspire”. But she would prefer to let her whistle speak.
“I don’t want to be judged differently because of my gender but because of my refereeing skills,” she said.
In Qatar, Stéphanie Frappart has already officiated as the fourth referee in two group stage matches, when Mexico took on Poland and Portugal took on Ghana.