World Cup 2022: How the “shy” Stéphanie Frappart came to mark the history of arbitration
SOCCER The pioneer. Stéphanie Frappart will be the first woman to referee a World Cup match on Thursday. A new barrier jumps thanks to the one that has already been crossed
Stéphanie Frappart will be the central referee for Costa Rica – Germany this Thursday. A first for a woman in the World Cup.
Stéphanie Frappart will be the central referee for Costa Rica – Germany this Thursday. A first for a woman in the World Cup. — Sylvain THOMAS
The symbol is strong. Stéphanie Frappart will become, this Thursday during the Costa Rica-Germany match, the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match.
Surprising? Not really when you see the career of the native of Val-d’Oise, who has already marked her profession so much.
Who is she ? How did she get there? 20 Minutes tells you the success story of the most famous referee.
Forever the first. This Thursday evening, Stéphanie Frappart will enter a little more into the pantheon of arbitration. The Frenchwoman will be on the whistle of a men’s World Cup match, Costa Rica – Germany (8 p.m.) . No woman had achieved it so far, in 21 editions. A new lock that jumps on the grounds? It doesn’t matter for the native of Plessis-Bouchard ( Val-d’Oise ), 38, who has long been used to breaking barriers.
“It’s Madame Première!” smiles the president of the Federal Arbitration Commission Eric Borghini. “She was the first woman to referee in Ligue 2, in Ligue 1, in the European Super Cup, in the Champions League …” And now therefore in the premier competition, in front of perhaps millions of spectators. In any case much more than when she was still learning to distribute the boxes, in 1996.
“She was very small, the chip! »
Jean-Claude Guillemet remembers it very well. “I had the pleasure of validating her first practical exam when she wanted to become a referee”, laughs the current president of the Val-d’Oise arbitration commission. “She was very small, the chip! It was for a meeting of U15 boys. They were taller and looked down on her, but she put them in her pocket. Stephanie already had everything! Authority, presence…”
The 13-year-old then also pushed the ball in addition to whistling. “She played number ten and was good,” assures her former partner Ludivine Floirac, referring to a child “shy, quite introverted in her emotions but who had character traits that were not so surprising when you see her career. “On the field, the playmaker changed personality. Even if it means being aggressive with men in black? Don’t overdo it either! “No, she wasn’t vindictive, but rather advising, telling her partners not to give up. »
This self-sacrifice, coupled with a great capacity for work praised by his acquaintances, allowed him to break through. “She did not stay long in the department, we quickly sent her to the Paris league”, confirms Jean-Claude Guillemet. “The girls who refereed in Val-d’Oise had to be counted on the finger of one hand at the time. She had a boulevard in front of her when it’s harder for boys. “Perhaps but, in return, Stéphanie Frappart wiped the looks askance, to put it mildly, from a hyper-masculine environment.
Sexist? Eric Borghini is not afraid to say it. “When it started [in the professional world] ten years ago, football was misogynistic. Stéphanie suffered from reluctance […] But I don’t think she doubted. She is a very strong woman mentally. She was able to be resilient immediately by taking a lot of height in relation to all that. She is incredibly calm in all circumstances. In the storm and the turmoil, she is a fixed point, she is a woman who does not tremble, it is impressive. Obviously, it didn’t make her happy, but it didn’t destabilize her. She continued her mission. »
“A woman in a men’s sport, it’s complicated”
Sometimes the storm was terrible. In 2015, Valenciennes coach David Le Frapper strongly attacked (before apologizing) the heiress of Nelly Viennot, the first to officiate on the sidelines of a Division 1 match in 1996. “She didn’t see, she was too far away, I don’t know. Or she was skating before […] A woman who comes to referee in a men’s sport, it’s complicated, ”he yelled, before receiving a four-game suspension for his remarks. In April 2021, Rudi Garcia also had words with Stéphanie Frappart during a Lyon-Monaco (0-2) … finished in the stands. “Sometimes the referee is not good. Some decisions were not favorable to us. Unfortunately, with this referee, it’s not the first time that we have had results like this evening,” tackled the then OL coach.
Conversely, several technicians also paid tribute to him. The most notable is signed Jürgen Klopp. “If we had played as she whistled, we would have won 6-0,” greeted the Reds coach after the European Super Cup final won on penalties in front of Chelsea. “I consider her one of the best referees in France,” said Christophe Galtier last April . A petition was then circulating in Nice to prevent her from officiating at an OGCN match, after she had excluded Schneiderlin, Dante and Justin Kluivert in two matches.
“Calm, composed but quite dry and severe”
The “pioneer” is not the type to let herself be walked on on the lawns… “She is calm, composed but quite dry and severe. There is not really any discussion possible, she tries to remain firm, ”supports the former RC Strasbourg player Jérémy Grimm, who has dealt with the Francilienne several times. “In Ligue 2 not badly, a little in Ligue 1 and in my memories, she had spoiled me a little. I had had several yellow cards from him, maybe even a red! »
For performance, therefore, not always appreciated. Witness, again, the rankings of the daily L’Equipe where Stéphanie Frappart appears rather at the bottom of the table for the past two seasons (21st then 17th). “When we do the ranking of referees, she is the fourth French referee behind Turpin, Bastien and Letexier”, retorts Eric Borghini. “Today, no one can say that we were wrong about Stéphanie. Even if in France, there may be some reluctance here and there. But when you see how it is appreciated, recognized and designated by both UEFA and Fifa, it silences everyone. Pierluigi Collina (president of the Fifa arbitration commission) does not give gifts to anyone, it demands the best and takes no risks in its appointments. »
The president of the Federal Arbitration Commission in France also sweeps away the idea of an express advancement linked to sex. “There was no particular lobbying to get her to the top. There is a very strong political will on the part of international and national bodies to promote women’s football and women’s refereeing, but things happened naturally. Stéphanie imposed herself by her qualities, she did not benefit from privileges, privileges. She got there with her talent. »
“She did not benefit from privileges”
The French will have the opportunity to prove it again, Thursday between Costa Rica and Germany. Where it will be difficult not to think of the symbol it represents. “This designation is important for world football, and even more so for the place of women in sport, in society and in the world”, appreciates Olivier Lamarre, the president of the Union of elite football referees (Safe). Each time Stéphanie has achieved firsts, she has advanced the cause of women. It shows young girls that it’s possible, it opens doors. Stéphanie shows that we can go, if we have the qualities and we work, beyond this glass ceiling. Or even further? The rest will depend a little on the course of the Blues in Qatar. And a lot of the impression left by Frappart on Thursday evening.