Champions League

Stephanie Frappart: The history-making ref who will lead Juve v Dynamo Kyiv

Stephanie Frappart will become the first female to referee a male Champions League match on Wednesday - and her appointment has been achieved purely on merit.

8:42pm on Monday 30th November 2020
Robin Bairner

Referee Stephanie Frappart will make history on Wednesday when she takes charge of the Champions League match between Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv at the Allianz Stadium.

She will become the first female to take charge of a male fixture at that level, though she has been quietly working her way through the ranks in France for several years now.

A naturally shy character, the 36-year-old first took charge of a game in France’s third tier as far back as 2011 and in under a decade will have ascended close to the very peak of her profession.

And yet, the very thing she is bound to go down in history for is something she is eager to ignore on the field.

“Players need to see a referee, not a gender,” she told L’Equipe Mag. “Apart from ‘Mr Referee’, I’ve not endured any sexist remarks or attempts to flirt.

“Since I’ve been in this environment, I’ve carried on my shoulders the heavy weight of the status of a woman in sport and society, but I manage it because I know I’m competent.”

Players need to see a referee, not a gender.Stephanie Frappart

In truth, she is modest. She is excellent in her role, as her steady journey to the top is testimony to.

Indeed, she has managed to perfect certain techniques so that her stature does not become an issue.

“I’m only 1.64m tall but on the field, even when there are big guys, I’ve never encountered a problem relating to my height,” she said. “Let’s say that I use tricks so that I don’t find myself in difficulty because of it. I put myself in a bubble away from the players, keeping a metre between them and me. It prevents me from being put in a position of inferiority.

“In my role, using your eyes is important. It conveys a message that are more impactful than words.”

Instead of being a handicap, she finds that being female is actually an “asset in reducing certain conflicts”.

Her commitment to the game, meanwhile, is admirable. To keep herself trim, she does sessions once or twice a day and has a personal trainer. She works as if she were a runner.

Meanwhile, Frappart’s personality is apparently ideally suited to the role she plays. She has a low-key style of refereeing, the type fans typically appreciate, which she puts that down to one unusual personality quirk.

“I’ve never managed to get over my acute shyness,” she admitted. “Contrary to what you might think, this shyness helped me not take up too much space on the pitch. I means I don’t take leadership from the players, who have to remain the stars of the game.

“You could say that it helped to define my refereeing personality, between calm and serenity.”

She ran 16.1 kilometres in 120 minutes and 11.9km in 90. This is a longer distance than ever recorded in recent years in the Champions League. There are over 400 matches analysed.Roberto Rosetti

Her career to date has been littered with a whole string of firsts. Most notable among these was her appearance as referee in the 2018 European Super Cup clash between Liverpool and Chelsea, in which she earned the acclaim of respective managers Jurgen Klopp and Frank Lampard.

But it was that night in Istanbul that proved beyond all doubt that the intensity of a top level men’s match was not beyond her.

“Her athletic performance was surprising,” Roberto Rosetti, who oversees referees in UEFA competitions, admitted to Gazzetta dello Sport. “She ran 16.1 kilometres in 120 minutes and 11.9km in 90. This is a longer distance than ever recorded in recent years in the Champions League. There are over 400 matches analysed.”

Frappart will certainly not be aiming for any distance records on Wednesday. Instead, it would suit her not to be the subject of any attention at all.

Silence, after all, is the seal of approval of any refereeing performance while it would also confirm that she has firmly been accepted that the very elite level of the game.

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