Getting to play in the World Cup is one of the biggest thrills in the life of a professional football player. After all, it is the most watched sports tournament on Earth!
The same feeling goes for officials, too.
Every referee wants the chance to prove that they are worth calling matches that capture the attention of the entire globe. And with thousands of officials working internationally, being selected is a real honour.
With Qatar 2022 happening later this year, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) announced the team of referees and other officials that will oversee the big games. And for the first time ever, that list includes female talent.
The breakthrough six
In total, six women will join the team of 129 officials. They are referees Stephanie Frappart of France, Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda, and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan, and assistant referees Neuza Back of Brazil, Karen Diaz Medina of Mexico, and Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States.
Of this group, Frappart is the one who is most well known to football fans.
She has already refereed several World Cup qualifying matches and matches in the Champions League (the biggest club competition in Europe). Earlier this month, she called the French Cup final. She also handled the final of the 2019 Women's World Cup, too.
In other words, she is no stranger to a big moment!
A long time coming
But for her and the other five female officials selected, this is something bigger than just their own achievements. It is something that has been a long time coming, and that is happening in top sports leagues around the world.
When FIFA Referees Committee chairman Pierluigi Collina announced the officials for the tournament, he said, "In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is quality that counts for us [in officiating] and not gender."
The hope is that between promoting women's professional teams and athletes, female officials, and women in offices of big teams, there will come a day when none of this seems out of the ordinary. Women will occupy the same space as men in pro sports.
But until then, announcements like this one are worth celebrating. Congrats to all six of these exceptional pros—we're looking forward to seeing them on the pitch in November!