For the first time in history, female referees to appear in men's world cup

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The U-17 World Cup of 2017, played in India between the 6th and 28th of October of that year, made history by being the first to include seven female assistant referees.

24 teams from across 5 continents competed in the U-17 World Cup, which took place in India from the 6th to 28th of October 2017. The listing of 21 match official arbitral trios who taught justice on the pitches included an astonishing new development: for the first time in the history of the FIFA tournaments, there were female referees.

Whilst FIFA had previously appointed female match officials as referees in female competitions, 2017 was the first time they were allowed to participate in a male tournament. The seven selected — Ok Ri Hyang (North Korea), Gladys Lengwe (Zambia), Carol Anne Chenard (Canada), Claudia Umpiérrez, (Uruguay), Anna-Marie Keighley (New Zealand), Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine) and Esther Staubli (Switzerland) —, acted as assistant referees and they were named fourth referee during the tournament. "It's excellent news. Like their male counterparts, they have passed all physical and technical checks, and are fully able to perform their duties", noted Marisa Villa, coordinator for Spanish women's refereeing in the National Committee of Referees.


These women served as assistant referees "because to operate as main referees they have to already be refereeing in the First Division of their respective countries and, to operate as such internationally, they must be part of men's football. It's not an easy goal to achieve, but we hope we'll soon have a female referee in international men's competitions", Marisa Villa explained.

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In Spain, the challenge of refereeing in the Men's First Division is complex. The RFEF requires some very demanding physical tests, of both men and women, and in a minimum time: "Each country decides what physical tests must be taken and the time in which to pass such. In Spain, for example, there is an exercise called a field test that is so hard — a combination of speed, agility and endurance — that has prevented some female referees from directing matches in the highest categories", the coordinator for Spanish women's refereeing noted.

Physical tests to work as a referee at the highest FIFA levels.#RRSSPhysical tests to work as a referee at the highest FIFA levels.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: physical tests to work as a referee at the highest FIFA levels [PDF]

In women's football, there are four international spots available. Of these, only two are referee assistants in the men's Second Division League and a very small group operate as such in the Second Division B. As referees, women only run matches in the men's Third Division and in the Primera Iberdrola women's league, the highest category of Spanish women's football that, for the first time, was directed by women (20 referees and 20 assistants). "The rest are distributed between the Women's Second Division, the grassroots sport and the lower categories", Marisa Villa commented.

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