The world football governing body FIFA has taken another giant stride into history by announcing that female referees will officiate the men's World Cup for the first time ever.
Female referees have been a constant thing in men's football for the larger part of five years now. There were female referees at the Euro 2020 tournament, at the African Cup of Nations 2021 tournament, and there have been female referees in football leagues all across the world.
But with the World Cup being held every four years, there has been no time to see this progress on the biggest global stage. Qatar 2022, already a historical World Cup before it has even started for a number of reasons, is going to add another historical feather to its cap by being the first World Cup to have female referees.
Stephanie Frappart from France, Salima Mukasanga from Rwanda, and from Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan lead the team of six female referees from the 129 total match officials who will officiate at the World Cup, with the other three - Neuza Back from Brazil, Karen Díaz Medina from Mexico, and Kathryn Nesbitt from the United States of America making up the six-woman referee contingent as assistant referees.
"As always, the criteria we have used is quality first, and the selected match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide," said FIFA Referees Committee chairman and legendary former referee Pierluigi Collina.
"In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is quality that counts for us and not genders."
Collins, who was revered for being an all-seeing referee in his time that barely missed a bit of action and rarely got decisions wrong, and was known to be a no-nonsense referee in his time, hoped that future tournaments will have space for more female referees.
"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," Collina said.
"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."
Meet our female referees
Frappart is already a refereeing legend in France, having previously taken charge of French a number of men's World Cup qualifying games, men's UEFA Champions League games, 2019 Women's World Cup final, and recently the men's French Cup final in May.
Mukasanga, like Frappart, is already a well known name in her home country of Rwanda, having officiated many Rwandan men's league games. She was the first woman to officiate in an AFCON tournament and was also one of the first African women to officiate in a women's World Cup. She is also a practicing nurse.
Yoshimi Yamashita is the first woman to officiate an Asian men's Champions League match, and is also an accomplished referee in Japan.