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Meet the first ever all-female World Cup refereeing team

An all-female refereeing team will make history tonight when they take charge of a men’s World Cup game for the first time.

French official Stéphanie Frappart will take the whistle for the crucial Group E clash between Germany and Costa Rica in Qatar, assisted by Neuza Back of Brazil and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina.

The milestone appointments have been welcomed by both managers, with Germany coach Hansi Flick saying he trusts the officials ‘100 per cent’, while Costa Rica boss Luis Fernando Suarez described it as a major step forward for the ‘very sexist’ football industry.

Frappart, 38, is no stranger to refereeing big games, having taken charge of matches in the Champions League as well as the 2019 Uefa Super League final between Liverpool and Chelsea.

French official Stéphanie Frappart will take the whistle for the crucial Group E clash between Germany and Costa Rica in Qatar

Neuza Back works out seven days a week, weightlifting and running at least 6km a day in her home of Jundiai, São Paulo

Neuza Back works out seven days a week, weightlifting and running at least 6km a day in her home of Jundiai, São Paulo

But football’s flagship international competition, with the eyes of the world watching, represents a significant step up. 

Back has come a long way from being grabbed by the neck by a pitch invader, and being publicly humiliated by Brazil’s 1970 hero, Jairzinho, who told her she should ‘go do the laundry’ after a controversial decision in the Copa do Brasil – comments he later apologised for.

The 38-year-old works out seven days a week, weightlifting and running at least 6km a day in her home of Jundiai, São Paulo.

She also meticulously studies videos of games, including her own, often analysing tight offside calls to see were she can improve – an attitude that has seen her rack up 100 games in the Brazilian top flight.

Meanwhile, for Diaz Medina, also 38, it is the apex of a rags-to-riches story, which began with her officiating games as a youngster in Aguascalientes for just 55 pesos (£2.34).

Assistant referees can earn some €2,500 (£2,141) for each World Cup group game they are involved in, according to reports.

Diaz Medina’s first experience of refereeing came by chance when she was asked to fill in for an official who didn’t turn up while she was working at a snack shack at a sports centre.

Despite also boasting a degree in agro-industrial engineering, football has always been her biggest passion, and she made history in 2020 by becoming the first female to officiate in Mexico’s Liga MX final. 

For Karen Diaz Medina, also 38, it is the apex of a rags-to-riches story, which began with her officiating games as a youngster in Aguascalientes for just 55 pesos (£2.34)

For Karen Diaz Medina, also 38, it is the apex of a rags-to-riches story, which began with her officiating games as a youngster in Aguascalientes for just 55 pesos (£2.34)

Stephanie Frappart was the fourth official for Portugal's clash with Ghana last week

Stephanie Frappart was the fourth official for Portugal’s clash with Ghana last week

Brazilian assistant referee Neuza Back runs on the sidelines during the FIFA Club World Cup 5th place football match between Korea's Ulsan Hyundai and Qatar's Al-Duhail at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium

Brazilian assistant referee Neuza Back runs on the sidelines during the FIFA Club World Cup 5th place football match between Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai and Qatar’s Al-Duhail at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium

Referee Karen Diaz Medina prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and Australia

Referee Karen Diaz Medina prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and Australia

Back has come a long way from being grabbed by the neck by a pitch invader

Back has come a long way from being grabbed by the neck by a pitch invader

Frappart, the daughter of a nursery school assistant and a technology firm worker, grew up in a football-mad family in Val d’Oise, north of Paris.

Her father played at an amateur level before working for multinational conglomerate 3M, while her two brothers also refereed while growing up.

She herself started playing football as a young girl before turning to officiating aged 13, when she took charge of children’s matches. 

As she progressed through the amateur ranks, Frappart used a number of clever pre-game tactics to shake off any pre-conceptions from male players, including testing the balls by bouncing them with her hand and then subtly displaying her own skills with her feet.

Now, a quarter of a century on from when she first picked up the whistle, she is preparing to officiate on the biggest stage of all.

Costa Rica boss Suarez told a press conference: ‘I admire everything that women have conquered and I like that they want to keep on conquering things.

‘This is another step forward, which speaks volumes of this woman, of her commitment of doing things.

‘And especially in this sport, it’s a very sexist one. It’s very difficult to reach the point she has reached.

‘I like it, it’s a situation that is good for football, it’s another positive step. It means opening up football more for everyone.

‘One good thing about football is that it has always been democratic and this is also a very democratic step.’

She was also publicly humiliated by Brazil's 1970 hero, Jairzinho, who told her she should 'go do the laundry' after a controversial decision in the Copa do Brasil - comments he later apologised for

She was also publicly humiliated by Brazil’s 1970 hero, Jairzinho, who told her she should ‘go do the laundry’ after a controversial decision in the Copa do Brasil – comments he later apologised for

Back also meticulously studies videos of games, including her own, often analysing tight offside calls to see were she can improve - an attitude that has seen her rack up 100 games in the Brazilian top flight

Back also meticulously studies videos of games, including her own, often analysing tight offside calls to see were she can improve – an attitude that has seen her rack up 100 games in the Brazilian top flight

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo poses with the fourth official Frappart before the match with Ghana

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo poses with the fourth official Frappart before the match with Ghana

Frappart (R) greets Real Madrid's defender Nacho Fernandez (C) after the UEFA Champions League group F match between Real Madrid and Celtic last month

Frappart (R) greets Real Madrid’s 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

Frappart, pictured calming down Jordan Henderson, also took charge of the 2019 Uefa Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea

His opposite number, Flick, also backed the historic decision to appoint Frappart – who broke ground last week by becoming the first female fourth official in the men’s competition – for the match at Al Bayt Stadium.

Frappart has already broken new ground in Qatar, having last week become the first female fourth official in the men’s competition.

He said: ‘I trust her 100 per cent. I think she deserves to be here due to her performance and her achievements.

‘We’re looking forward to this match and I hope that she is looking forward to this match as well. I think she will perform very well.’

Frappart’s profile has soared in recent years, having broken through the glass ceiling to referee in France’s second division, then the top flight, Ligue 1, before then making her mark on the continental stage by appearing in the Champions League and Super Cup. 

She even beat France’s star striker Kylian Mbappé to take No 1 spot on L’Équipe’s list of the 30 most important personalities who make French football. 

Those who have worked with her in France, describe her as ‘charismatic’ and ‘diplomatic’ on the pitch, as well as ‘human and humble’.

Frappart told Le Monde last year: ‘I’ve always said … judge me on my competence, not my gender’. 

Speaking to BBC Sport before the tournament, she added: ‘Since I started I was always supported by teams, clubs and players. 

‘I was always welcome in the stadium so I feel like another referee inside the pitch. I was always welcome, so I think I will be welcome as before.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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