Grit earned 6 women referees Fifa's nod for Qatar World Cup

Salima Mukansanga

Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga  during the Group B Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 match between Zimbabwe and Guinea at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on January 18, 2022.

Photo credit: Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Fifa's Referees Committee named Salima Mukansanga, Stéphanie Frappart and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan as referees.
  • Neuza Back, Karen Díaz Medina and Kathryn Nesbitt will officiate as assistant referees.


Six women will grace men’s quadrennial football World Cup to be held in November and December in Qatar as referees and assistant referees.

The Federation of International Football Association's (Fifa's) Referees Committee named Salima Mukansanga, Stéphanie Frappart and Yoshimi Yamashita as referees, and Neuza Back, Karen Díaz Medina and Kathryn Nesbitt as assistants.

According to the committee’s chairperson Pierluigi Collina, the officials “represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide”.

It takes grit to become a Fifa referee. According to a post on soccer politics on Duke University’s site, “referees must move up the ranks by officiating a minimum number of games, passing written and fitness tests, and earning the recommendations of assessors. A failure in any one of the requirements completely prevents a referee from advancing grades.”

How did the six make it?

Salima Mukansanga 

Ms Mukansanga is a Rwandan international football referee. At 15, her eyes were set on becoming a professional basketball player. But she was told she was too young for the sport. So she opted for football.

In 2016, she oversaw Kenya play Mali during the Africa Women's Cup of Nations. Kenya’s national women’s football team was defeated 3-1.

She was a referee at the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup in France and served in a similar capacity in the women’s football at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan.

In the DW article, Ms Mukansanga hoped her achievement would inspire conservative countries to remove barriers for women.

“Some countries still don't allow women and girls into football. They say it is not for girls. This is the moment to give them a chance and support them,” she is quoted as saying.

Stéphanie Frappart

The French referee has many firsts to her name in the world of football. She started to referee at the age of 13. According to France24, she was the first woman referee in the French second division in 2014, moving up to the men's Ligue 1 five years later.

In 2019, she made history when she refereed UEFA Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea in Istanbul, Turkey.

In September,2020, Malta and Latvia teams had the privilege to have her oversee their game under the UEFA Nations League.

Three months later, she was at it again, officiating a men's European Championship when she took charge of the game between Italian giants Juventus and Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv in Allianz Stadium, Italy.

Then in March 2021, she refereed a men's World Cup qualifier, in which the Netherlands beat Latvia  2-0  in Amsterdam.

France24 quotes Ms Frappart in its December 2, 2020 article as saying: “I hope that my career will encourage young girls to become involved in refereeing.”

Yoshimi Yamashita

She is the third woman to referee the Qatar World Cup. She started by refereeing 2015 World University Games, in Gwangju, South Korea, before officiating the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. She was also a referee in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In May last year, she was in the field controlling the match between third-division clubs Y.S.C.C. Yokohama and Tegevajaro Miyazaki in Japan’s J. League.

Assistant referees

Ms Back, a Brazilian, has developed her experience having been an assistant referee in domestic cups beginning 2010. She first served as an assistant referee in an international cup in 2020, according to Soccerway, a football database.

Ms Díaz is Mexican and the first woman to take charge of a second leg of the Liga MX Guard1anes 2020 final between Pumas and Leon.

Ms Nesbitt from the USA is the 2020 Major League Soccer assistant referee of the year and first woman to referee a championship match in professional men's sports in North America.

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