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Tonight the first female referee at a World Cup will whistle: “It’s finally time”

History will be written tonight at the World Cup in Qatar during the game between Germany and Costa Rica. For the first time, a World Cup match for men will be refereed by a female referee. Sports journalist and podcast maker Marlie van Zoggel explains why this historic step took so long: “For a long time there were rules that it was not allowed.”

Marlies van Zoggel about the first female referee at a men’s World Cup

“Perhaps it should have happened a long time ago, but it was not allowed for a very long time,” explains Marlie. “For a long time there were rules that it was not allowed and that only changed a few years ago, so now it’s finally time.”

The rule changed a few years ago because a few countries changed the rule themselves, after which women increasingly refereed high-level competitions. “Then finally FIFA said: ‘Well, then we will adjust it too’.”

The referee who will make history for Germany against Costa Rica tonight is called Stéphanie Frappart. Previously, she was also the first female referee to referee a major European men’s match, during the European Super Cup in 2019. She was also active at last year’s European Championship. “If you ever saw a woman in men’s football on TV, it was probably her.”

Apart from Frappart, there are two other female referees at the World Cup in Qatar. “But they haven’t whistled a game yet, so maybe more will follow after Frappart.” In any case, FIFA referee chief Pierluigi Collina has expressed his hope that it will become normal for a match in men’s football to be refereed by a female referee. “So if there are women with referee ambitions, then there are opportunities,” says Marlie.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is very controversial. First of all, an investigation by the American FBI showed that Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010 through bribery. Moreover, in recent years, during the preparations for the tournament, such as the construction of stadiums and other facilities, human rights have been violated and at least 6,500 migrant workers have died. They came mainly from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and had to work in unsafe working conditions and extreme heat, Amnesty International said in a report. The government in Qatar has almost never conducted a proper investigation into the deaths and FIFA would have looked away, according to the human rights organization.


According to human rights organizations, Qatar is guilty of sport washing: using a major tournament to put a country in a good light, while concealing misconduct and human rights violations. In addition to the death of the migrant workers, the ban on homosexuality is also something that many believe makes Qatar an unsuitable host country. For example, Human Rights Watch released a report a few weeks before the World Cup that shows that LGBT people have been arbitrarily arrested and abused in the country without charge over the past three years.

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