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Qatar 2022, the first World Cup with female referees: one from France, another from Japan and also from Rwanda

On November 2, at Real Madrid-Celtic, Stéphanie Frappart broke down yet another wall in her brilliant career as a referee. The French referee became the first woman to whistle a Champions League match at the Santiago Bernabéu. A new milestone for the best referee in the world during the last three seasons, according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). Frappart is a pioneer in men’s football. Previously, she had already been the first referee to whistle the French Cup final (2022), the Juventus-Dinamo kyiv Champions League (2020), the Malta-Latvia League of Nations (2020), the European Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool (2019) and Ligue 1 matches since the 2019-2020 season, which promoted to the first division of their country. The new milestone for her will take place these next few days in Qatar. Together with the Japanese Yoshimi Yamashita and the Rwandan Salima Mukansanga, she will be one of the first three referees to whistle in a men’s World Cup, in which the Spanish representative will be Mateu Lahoz, as happened in 2018. Stéphanie is the most powerful success story in refereeing for women, but not the only one in elite football. The German Bibiana Steinhaus was the first woman to whistle in the Bundesliga (2017-2020) and the Italian Maria Sole Ferrieri Caputi has refereed in Serie A since this same campaign. In addition, in Europe she also whistles in the first men’s division of the country with the Croatian Ivana Martincic, the Czech Jana Adámková, the Ukrainian Kateryna Monzul and the Welsh Cheryl Foster. And in Spain? Here there is still work to be done, but the evolution is serious. In the country there are around 15,000 soccer referees from the categories of children to the elite of the whistle. Of these 15,000, only five percent, approximately 750, are referees. The difference is huge, but you have to put it in context. Spanish women’s refereeing was in the underground years ago and the dropout rate was very high. Since 2017, the film has changed completely: «I retired in 2013 and since then I started working at the CTA to modernize the structure of Spanish women’s refereeing. Five years ago is when the current project was launched, which included recruitment, monitoring and division by categories, “explains Marisa Villa to ABC. Physical tests This former collegiate from Ciudad Real whistled in the women’s category at the Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing and London, at the World Cups in China (2007) and Germany (2011) and a final of the UEFA Cup in 2007, but fell short of doors to do it in Primera. In the 2007-08 season, Silla did not pass the relevant physical tests and there her options of becoming the first professional referee to whistle in LaLiga vanished: «If we want to normalize arbitration we must not differentiate men and women. It would be unfair if the physical tests were different by gender. The treatment must be the same”, Marisa details with a certain melancholy of what could have been and was not: “In 2006 there was a radical change worldwide in terms of physical tests on referees. Suddenly, the level of demand rose a lot and that meant that, for example, Mejuto González’s assistants did not pass them and he was left without whistling the 2006 World Cup in Germany. In my case I was always going to the limit, but during those tests I failed by hundredths in some speed series. Marisa Villa was one breath away from making history, but she planted the seed for those that were to come after: «The evolution has been very positive in recent years. In First Division, Guadalupe Porras has been an assistant referee since 2019 and, this season, Eliana Fernández has joined her. In Second Division we have another assistant, Judit Romando, and in First Division RFEF Marta Huerta whistles as a referee, in addition to having two other assistants, Silvia Fernández and Iragartze Fernández”, details Yolanda Parga, Marisa’s substitute as head of women’s arbitration in the CTA and , previously, one of the best collegiate in the history of our country. In the RFEF they do not want to take false steps. Your bet is there, but the promotions will not be made based on gender. The referee who shows that she can reach First Division, she will arrive, but she will not do so because she is a woman. That is a clear red line in the CTA: «We have to take firm steps so that we don’t have to back down later. Of course the goal is to have a referee in the First Division, but that takes time. She has to be a referee who deserves it for her worth, not for other arguments. I think we have very disciplined, hard-working and prepared collegiates, but we have to go little by little, ”says Yolanda. «There has been an important leap and it will continue to be so due to the level of involvement and effort that I see in the group. I’ve been whistling for 18 seasons and I’ve always considered myself the same as my teammates. Being a woman means nothing. Nobody has told me that I was going up a category for calling me Marta. I have had to compete with the same demands as the rest, and that’s how it has to be. The important thing is that not long ago we were counted four girls and there are more and more referees. That makes me proud,” reflects Marta Huerta. De Aza, on pole Affiliated to the Tenerife school, the Palencia native has four seasons between Segunda B and Primera RFEF. Last summer she whistled the opening match of the women’s Euro Cup in England, and her position and growth suggest that she will be the first main referee to make the leap to professional men’s football, but she prefers to be cautious: «My goal is to enjoy the game more next and if something arrives in the future, let it arrive, but I am not going to put more weight, pressure and stress in my backpack than what whistle already has throughout a season. It wouldn’t be fair or good for me. What I have to do is show on the field of play that we are ready for when the committee considers that we can make the leap to Second Division.” «She is one of our best referees and she showed it this summer in the Euro and in the U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica. She manages the matches very well, she has a very good presence on the field. It is true that the rhythm of the matches and the physical demands are different, but today there are already enough matches in women’s football with a very high pace and intensity. Surely it is a more innocent football, in the positive sense, in terms of entries or protests, but I have already been warning the referees that this is changing and it is going to get worse. The referees of our country have also increased their physical preparation a lot, “analyzes Parga. «Many times I run more in women’s matches than in men’s. It’s not a matter of gender, but it depends more on the competitiveness and style of play of the teams. No one is surprised to see a woman in men’s soccer anymore. When we get to First and Second, perhaps that will be news, but it will be one day, as happened with Guadalupe three seasons ago, and then it will normalize. The process must be natural”, says Marta. For both Yolanda and Huerta, Frappart’s arbitration at the Bernabéu did not take them by surprise. They know her well, they have shared arbitration teams and they know her category. A referee who is helping to open the way for women in elite men’s soccer, the one that was lagging behind in Spain, but has already taken flight and, sooner rather than later, will see a referee be the main judge: «Patience, it will come”, sentence Parga.

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