When Germany and Costa Rica clash on Thursday (12.30 am Friday in India) at Qatar’s Al Bayt Stadium for their final FIFA World Cup 2022 group stage match, it will be a special event in two respects. One, it could make or break Germany’s dream of winning the coveted title. Two, and perhaps more significantly, it will be the first match in a men’s tournament where all referees will be women.
FIFA on Tuesday announced that Stéphanie Frappart, Neuza Back and Karen Diaz will become the first all-women refereeing team. Frappart, the 38-year-old French woman, also served as an official in the Group C match between Mexico and Poland last week. She has earlier taken charge of matches in France’s Ligue 1 and the European League. She was also the referee in the 2019 Women’s FIFA World Cup final match between the US and the Netherlands.
Brazil’s Back and Mexico’s Diaz will serve as her on-field assistants.
The fourth match official, who will work as the offside specialist in the video review team, will also be a woman. Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States will assist Frappart, Back and Diaz from outside the ground.
Nesbitt was also an assistant referee at the 2019 Women’s FIFA World Cup. Before taking the role full-time, she was an assistant professor of analytical chemistry at Towson University in Maryland. She has earlier served in USA’s Major League Soccer (MLS) games.
For Nesbitt, it has been a long journey from a “restless 14-year-old sitting through her little brother’s games” to becoming the first woman to officiate an MLS final in 2020.
The match between Germany and Costa Rica will also be significant amid Qatar’s questionable women’s rights record. Qatar does not allow women to marry without the “permission of a male guardian”. Also, they can only get half of any form of inheritance as compared to their brothers.
The country has also faced criticism for restricting the freedom to wear clothes of choice, especially for women. Weeks before the tournament kicked off, the Qatar government’s tourism website issued an advisory to visitors.
“While non-Qatari women are not expected to wear the traditional long black robe called ‘abaya’, they will have to avoid clothes that may reveal their shoulders, midriff, or knees,” it said.
While for Germany or Costa Rica, the match on Thursday could bring heartbreak, for the rest of the world, it will be a new dawn – and perhaps, the inception of a new normal.