Some 92 years after the first World Cup game was held in Uruguay, Stéphanie Frappart is set to become the first woman to be the lead referee during a men’s match at the tournament. Frappart, a French referee, has been appointed to a refereeing crew of all women during a decisive group stage game between Costa Rica and Germany on Thursday.
Frappart, 38, will lead alongside Neuza Back of Brazil and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina. It is a barrier-breaking moment which both coaches welcomed and suggested was overdue.
“I trust her 100 percent,” Germany’s manager, Hansi Flick, said of Frappart’s appointment. “I think she deserves to be here due to her performance and achievements.”
Costa Rica’s manager, Luis Fernando Suárez, said the same during his prematch news conference.
“I am a great admirer of everything women have conquered,” he said. “And I like that they want to keep conquering things. And this is another step forward, especially in this sport, which is a very macho.”
Frappart told French reporters she considered her selection as lead referee “a surprise.” Still, she has had a stellar career for nearly two decades. A native of Le Plessis-Bouchard, a remote town in the far north of the Paris region, she officiated her first game in 2003 at age 19 — a women’s match between the Henin-Beaumont F.C. and La Roche-sur-Yon. Within two decades, she was overseeing a Women’s World Cup final.
Since then, she climbed the ladder like no woman before her, racking up accolades. In 2014, she became the first woman to be lead referee during a men’s Ligue 2 game, in France’s second division. She then refereed games in men’s Ligue 1, during international friendlies and in the Champions League.
On Aug. 14, 2019, Frappart also became the first woman to referee the UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool. After the game, Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool coach, praised her performance.
“If we would have played like they whistled, then we would have won, 6-0,” he said.
Frappart’s also refereed the Women’s World Cup final in 2019, when the United States beat the Netherlands to cap a tournament that was a major public forum for the U.S. team’s fight for equal pay and treatment from its national federation.
Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of the FIFA referee committee who is known for being tough on colleagues, has high praise for Frappart. “I hope that there will be more Frapparts in the future and that this will no longer constitute an oddity or news story,” Collina told the Italian press in 2021. At the Globe Soccer Awards in 2019, Frappart won an award as best referee and Collina handed her the trophy.
Frappart told French reporters that she was “aware” that her presence in the tournament is “going to inspire.” But she would prefer to let her whistle do the talking.
“I don’t want to be judged differently because of my gender but because of my refereeing skills,” she said.
In Qatar, Stephanie Frappart has already officiated as fourth referee for two matches during the group phase, when Mexico faced Poland and Portugal played Ghana.