Men’s football has been developing so fast that women are now getting their chances with men’s football.
Now don’t get it wrong, while men’s and women’s teams do not meet in official football competitions or any FIFA competitive games, female football officials have been seen taking charge of men’s games.
This has been happening gradually in years past, but with the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, it’s reached a new level, and it is expected that after the FIFA women’s World Cup in New Zealand and Qatar in 2023, there will be a new wave of women referees in soccer.
The top women’s soccer referees are just as good at the best male referees in the world.
Then maybe it’s high time you get familiar with the top 10 best women referees in soccer, and here we are with the names.
1. Stephanie Frappart – France
Stephanie Frappart may not be the first woman to become a soccer referee, but it won’t be a surprise if the next generation sees her as the greatest female referee ever, which is a tag she duly deserves as she’s the mother of many firsts.
She’s the first woman to officiate a men’s game in the Ligue 2, Ligue 1 in France, the first to officiate a men’s FIFA World Cup qualifier, men’s UEFA Champions League game, Men’s UEFA Super Cup in 2019, and many more.
She made history when she led an all-women’s referee team for a FIFA World Cup game in Qatar for Costa Rica v Germany on December one.
Frappart is regarded as one of the best women’s soccer referees because of her ability to make quick and confident decisions, even in high-pressure situations.
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2. Salima Mukansanga – Rwanda
Here is another woman of many firsts in men’s football, especially in African football.
Salima Mukansanga is not just one the best female soccer referees, but also considered among the best African soccer referees.
She became a FIFA-listed referee in 2012, and 8 years later and beyond, she’s smashing records.
She has officiated at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Women’s Soccer at the Olympic games, Women’s AFCON, and Men’s AFCON as a centre referee while she is the first woman from Africa to officiate at the men’s world cup in France’s 4-1 win over Australia at the Qatar world cup.
Mukansanga led a similar team at the AFCON in 2022, leading out an all-woman officiating team of Fatiha Jermoumi (Morocco), Carine Atemzabong (Cameroon), and Bouchra Karboubi (Morocco) as the VAR.
She is a fit referee, who is able to keep up with the pace of play and position herself to make the best calls.
3. Yoshimi Yamashita – Japan
Yamashita made giant strides in Asia before she was included in the list of match officials for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
She’s the first woman to officiate in the J1 League, Japan’s top-flight league, and the AFC Champions League.
Asides from the FIFA Women’s World Cup, she’s officiated at the Women’s Olympics, and at 37, many games lie ahead for Yamashita to handle.
4. Neuza Back – Brazil
Neuza Back is a well-known name back in Brazil as she’s handled game across several tiers of league in the South American country, and she’s vastly experienced as well.
She started as a footballer initially, and although she didn’t go far with it, obviously, she went ahead through another route after she helped officiate junior matches.
She made her professional refereeing debut in 2009 and has handled games in Brazilian leagues, the Women’s World cup, and Men’s world cup.
5. Karen Diaz Medina – Mexico
The third part of the all-female referee team to handle a game at the FIFA World Cup, Karen Diaz was part of the three who handled that game between Costa Rica and Germany.
At age 38, she’s a face that has been officiating in South America for seven years after officiating in Mexico’s top flight Liga MX in 2016, and two years later, she received her FIFA badge.
6. Kathryn Nesbitt – United States
Many of the names on this list didn’t start too far away from football, but Nesbitt did start life a bit far from football.
She was a professor of Chemistry at Townson University even weeks before the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where she officiated.
Her performances and professionalism, just like everyone else’s on this list, helped her gain a way into the FIFA Men’s World Cup.
Don’t get it twisted; she did handle men’s top-flight game in the US before getting to the international scene.
In 2020, she became the first woman to handle a championship match in professional men’s sports in North America from the centre for the MLS Cup game between the Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders.
Although she officiates club games outside Europe, the NWSL is one of the best women’s soccer leagues in the world.
7. Bibiana Steinhaus – Germany
Bibiana Steinhaus is one of the oldest generations of women referees who broke the early barriers of Women officiating in men’s games.
She started first as a footballer only briefly before taking a course as a referee, leading her to become a match official.
She was in the Regionalliga in 2001, and by 2007 she became the first female referee to officiate a men’s official professional league match.
She then became the first in the Bundesliga in 2017/2018, although she had been serving as an assistant referee way before then.
In 2020 she retired from refereeing, having handled games in the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, UEFA Women’s Euro 2009, and 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
8. Rita Gani – Malaysia
Policing on the street, policing on the pitch, Rita Gani loves being an official and is definitely a fan of law enforcement and uprightness.
Rita Gani was first a police officer before becoming a referee in 2004 and joining the FIFA referee list two years later.
She officiated at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2014 AFC Women’s Cup, after which she won the award for the best women’s referee.
9. Sian Massey-Ellis – England
If you’re an ardent follower of the Premier League over the years, there is a 90% chance that you have seen Sian Massey-Ellis on the touch of a Premier League game.
She is majorly an assistant referee and regarded as a highly professional one at that.
She became a Premier League-listed referee in 2008, and FIFA listed a year later.
Despite her experience, she has never been a centre referee in a men’s game.
However, she’s been in charge of several competitions, including the Women’s World Cup and qualifiers, the Europa League, and the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
10. Claudia Umpiérrez – Uruguay
Claudia Umpiérrez was born into a footballing family as she is the niece of former famous Uruguayan international Rubén Umpiérrez.
She has a grandfather who was a referee and a father who was a coach.
She became an approved referee in 2009, and she handled a men’s game in 2015; a year later, she was appointed for the Uruguayan top-flight game between River Plate and Boston River.
She’s a lawyer and has been twice ranked as one of the best referees in the world by IFFHS.