France's Stéphanie Frappart will be the first female referee to take charge of a major European men's showpiece occasion when she officiates at Wednesday's Super Cup match in Istanbul.
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What a year it’s been for Stéphanie Frappart…
The French referee will look back on 2019 as a time when the hard work and sacrifices she has made to reach the summit of her trade paid off in the most handsome of fashions – and history now beckons for her when she handles Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea in Istanbul.
It will be the first time that a female official has taken charge of a major UEFA men's competition showpiece match.
Frappart (35) has already created history in her native France, and she serves as a shining example of what can be achieved as a female referee. In April, she became the first female match official to take charge of a French domestic men’s Ligue 1 match when she officiated at the encounter between Amiens and Strasbourg. After several years of gathering experience in France’s men’s Ligue 2, she has been promoted on a permanent basis into the pool of referees for the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season.
The summer brought Frappart another momentous accolade – she was appointed to take charge of the FIFA Women’s World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands on home soil in Lyon in July. Now, she is relishing the prospect of her central role in next week’s curtain-raiser to the new UEFA club competition season.
Frappart will lead a team made up mostly of female officials. She will be accompanied by assistant referees Manuela Nicolosi (France) and Michelle O'Neill (Republic of Ireland). The fourth official will be Turkey's Cüneyt Çakır.
“I’m very happy, and it was really a surprise,” said Frappart, who comes from the Val-d'Oise department close to Paris. “I didn’t expect to be given the Super Cup assignment – it’s a great honour for me, and for female referees as well.”
“I hope it serves as an example to female referees, and to any young girls who may aspire to be a referee.”
UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti has absolutely no doubts about Frappart’s qualities: "Stéphanie has proved over a number of years that she is one of the best female referees, not just in Europe but across the world."
“She has the ability to officiate on the biggest stage, as she proved at this year's Women's World Cup final. I hope this match in Istanbul will provide her with yet more experience as she enters the prime of her refereeing career."
Frappart has vivid memories of the day in Lyon two months ago when she handled the Women’s World Cup climax. “It was magnificent – all the more so because it was in France,” she recalls. “The stadium was packed for a big occasion featuring two fine teams. It was an exceptional moment.”
“I’m sure that the final, and the entire World Cup, has attracted new supporters to women’s football. The tournament showed just how women’s football has developed in terms of technique, tactics and fitness.”
She began refereeing at 13. “I played football, but I also wanted to learn about the Laws of the Game, so I started refereeing, and continued both playing and refereeing until the age of 20, when I had to make a choice. At the time, women’s football structures were still developing, so I felt that it would be better for me to go on as a referee.”
From then, Frappart has worked assiduously to reach the highest levels. “I never set myself any great targets, really,” she reflects. “I’ve basically taken things from match to match along the way. I’ve not had a role model, but I’ve watched a lot of referees and they’ve all had some influence on me. A lot of people within the French FA have also given me good advice to follow.”
The historic Ligue 1 assignment in Amiens last spring was important for Frappart – “but I wouldn’t actually say that it was a challenge, because I’d already been refereeing in Ligue 2 for five years. Now that I’m in the Ligue 1 pool for next season, the aim is to do my very best and be successful.”
Frappart, a keen outdoor sports fan, will prepare for the Super Cup encounter with her usual diligence. “I think as a team, we’ll all have a chance to savour the occasion before and after the match,” she reflects, “but it’s essential that we’re fully concentrated on the game at the right time.”
“We’ll be able to study the two teams beforehand – this opportunity to learn how the teams play is a big help to us, it’s crucial for us.” The management skills that take referees to the top of the tree will also help the team of officials deal with events on the field. “I think it’s essential that referees are respected by the players on the field, and that they can live with the pressures,” she says.
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin hails Frappart’s historic Super Cup appointment. “As an organisation, we place the utmost importance on the development of women's football in all areas,” he says. “I hope the skill and devotion that Stéphanie has shown throughout her career to reach this level will provide inspiration to millions of girls and women around Europe, and show them there should be no barriers in order to reach one's dream."
A memorable night in Istanbul awaits Stéphanie Frappart and her colleagues. And for any young girl or woman who will watch the game with dreams of emulating her, what is her advice? “You’ve got to have a passion for football, certainly, if you want to be a referee,” she says. “And if you have… then why not try it?”