Damilola Aina, Abuja

Daily Courier – In a breakthrough for gender equality within football, three female referees have been drafted to officiate at this year’s senior men’s world cup finals holding in Qatar for the first time.

Stéphanie Frappart of France, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan have been included on the list of 36 referees who will take the field in Qatar in November and December.

The trio will be joined by Neuza Back of Brazil, Mexico’s Karen Díaz Medina and Kathryn Nesbitt from the United States, who form part of the 69-strong list of assistant referees.

Female referees have officiated in the UEFA Champions League, Euros and even in the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, that held earlier this year – a development that has shown an attempt to expand the role women play in the game.

One of those included Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga officiated at this year’s AFCON. She took charge of the game between Zimbabwe and Guinea.

French female referee, Stéphanie Frappart who has officiated top matches across Europe is also included. She was in charge of the 2019 Super Cup game between Chelsea and Liverpool and also oversaw a World Cup qualifying match.

According to Fifa’s head of refereeing, Pierluigi Collina, the selection of officials was made without consideration to gender. “This concludes a long process that began several years ago with the deployment of female referees at Fifa men’s junior and senior tournaments,” Collina said.

In this way, we clearly emphasise that it is quality that counts for us and not gender. I would hope that in the future, the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational.

“They deserve to be at the Fifa World Cup because they constantly perform at a really high level, and that’s the important factor for us.”