“It’s a strong sign from FIFA and the authorities to have women referees in that country. I’m not a feminist spokesperson, but if this can make things happen...” said trailblazing French referee Stephanie Frappart.
The 38-year-old is one of 36 referees selected for the Nov 20-Dec 18 tournament being staged in the conservative Gulf state.
Rwandan Salima Mukansanga and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan are the other two women officials to be chosen.
Asked about the choice of energy-rich Qatar to host the World Cup despite it being regularly criticised over human rights and the place of women in its society, Frappart acknowledged that “sport often plays a role”.
“I am not the decision-maker of the host of the World Cup. The authorities have made their choice,” she said during a press briefing at the French national football centre.
“You are always aware when you are a woman in the country. I was there three to four weeks ago and I was well received.”
Frappart has set numerous landmarks in her career - she was the first female referee to officiate the men’s UEFA Super Cup in 2019, in the Champions League in 2020 and in the French Cup final in May.
The population of Qatar is 80% expatriate but a policy of ‘Qatarisation’ has included allowing women wide access to higher education and the job market.
Nevertheless, under the region’s common guardianship system, women remain tied to a male guardian, usually their father, brother, grandfather, uncle, or husband.
They need his authorisation to make a number of decisions such as getting married, studying or travelling abroad and taking up certain jobs.