Female referee at men’s World Cup wants the game to shine

Jun 27, 2022, 2:10 AM | Updated: 6:08 pm
Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan, one of three women picked to be head referees at the men's soccer World...

Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan, one of three women picked to be head referees at the men's soccer World Cup, speaks during an interview withe The Associated Press Monday, June 27, 2022, at JFA YUME Field in Chiba, near Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita agrees with Pelé or whoever it was decades ago that first described soccer as the “beautiful game.”

Yamashita is one of three women picked by FIFA to be referees at the men’s World Cup in Qatar, which opens on Nov. 21. It’s the first time a woman will be in charge on soccer’s largest stage.

She sees her job this way: Let the game shine, as it should.

“One of the big goals as a referee is to bring out the the attractiveness of soccer,” she said Monday in Tokyo in an interview with the Associated Press. “I do my best for that, and I will do what I should at that time toward that end. So if I need to communicate with the players, I will do that. If I need to show a card, I will show a card. Rather than control, I’m thinking about what to do toward the big goal of bringing out the appeal of soccer.”

Stéphanie Frappart of France and Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda are the other women who were selected. There are 36 referees in total. FIFA has also named three female assistant referees in a pool of 69: Neuza Back of Brazil, Karen Diaz Medina of Mexico, and Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States.

Though it’s likely all three will be in charge of games, it’s not a given. They would also be used as so-called “fourth referees” on the sidelines. However, they cannot be used as assistants.

“Each match official will be carefully monitored in the next months with a final assessment on technical, physical and medical aspects to be made shortly before the World Cup,” Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s director of refereeing, said in a statement.

Yamashita’s selection puts the focus on Japan’s low ranking on most measures of equal pay for women, and in global studies of gender equality.

Only 14.3% of the seats in Japan’s national legislature are held by women — 152nd of 190 countries in a study published several months ago by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. Another study on the gender pay gap placed Japan 120th of 156 countries.

“I would be very happy if women could play an active role in sports in this way, and if sports and especially soccer could lead this,” Yamashita said. “In Japan, there is still a long way to go in the world of soccer (regarding participation of women), so it would be great if this could connect to promotion of female participation in different ways, not only in soccer or in sports.”

Women’s soccer has led the way in Japan. Japanese women won the 2011 women’s World Cup, were runners-up in 2015, and have been been consistently among the game’s elite teams.

Yamashita went through a workout on Monday just outside Tokyo, sweltering in temperatures that reached 35 C (95 F). She laughed when she was reminded that games in Qatar — located on a tip of the Arabian Peninsula — will be much cooler, being played in the Northern Hemisphere winter and in air-conditioned stadiums.

Yamashita seemed relaxed during the interview, removed from the obvious pressure. She has been a referee in Japan’s men’s J League, and has also been in charge of the Asian equivalent of the men’s Champions League. She also handled matches during last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“Of course, I think the pressure is huge,” she said, “and I think I have a lot of responsibility. But I am really happy to take this duty and pressure, so I try to take it positively and I try to be happy.”

She described the excitement of leaving the waiting room just before a match.

“I guess it cheers me up in that moment. I feel like that’s when I switch gears the most,” she said.

She said the difference in the men’s and women’s game was, of course, speed. But not simply that some men might run faster.

“It’s the speed, but not just the players’ speed,” she said. “Not the ball speed. It’s just the game speed. It means for me I have to make quicker decisions — more speed.”

Yamashita conducted most of the interview in Japanese, but said she would use English and “facial gestures, body gestures” when communicating with players in Qatar.

“Usually when I give a card, I say nothing,” she said, shifting to English. “But when I give a warning, I just tell them I’m not happy. They understand.”

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner prepares to throw out Miami Marlins' Jesus Aguilar during...
Associated Press

Dodgers edge Marlins 2-1 for 34th come-from-behind win

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Will Smith’s fielder’s choice-grounder scored Mookie Betts with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 Friday night for their major league-leading 34th come-from-behind victory. Betts scored on the bizarre play in which Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings abandoned the plate. Third baseman […]
22 hours ago
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas (39) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks dur...
Associated Press

Mikolas deals, Goldschmidt hits 30th HR, Cards beat D-backs

PHOENIX (AP) — Miles Mikolas threw eight dominant innings, Paul Goldschmidt connected for his 30th homer of the season and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1 on Friday night. Nolan Arenado hit three doubles and a single while veteran catcher Yadier Molina added a season-high three hits and scored a run. Goldschmidt […]
22 hours ago
Seattle Mariners' Eugenio Suarez hits a three-run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the...
Associated Press

Suarez’s 2 homers, 5 RBIs lead Seattle to 10-2 win over A’s

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Eugenio Suarez homered twice and drove in five runs as the Seattle Mariners cruised to their fourth straight win, 10-2 over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night. Marco Gonzales (8-12) allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings and beat Oakland for the third time this season. Seattle maintained a half-game lead […]
22 hours ago
Houston Astros' Yordan Alvarez watches his sacrifice fly off Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Joh...
Associated Press

Astros slugger Alvarez hospitalized with shortness of breath

ATLANTA (AP) — Astros left fielder Yordan Alvarez was taken to a hospital during Friday night’s game against Atlanta because of shortness of breath that was exacerbated by the Braves’ in-game fireworks, Houston manager Dusty Baker said. Alvarez departed the game under his own power with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. […]
22 hours ago
Colorado Rockies' Elehuris Montero is congratulated by teammates after the team's baseball game aga...
Associated Press

Montero homers twice with 5 RBIs, Rockies beat Giants 7-4

DENVER (AP) — Rookie Elehuris Montero homered twice and drove in five runs to back the solid pitching of José Ureña, and the Colorado Rockies beat the San Francisco Giants 7-4 on Friday night to snap a five-game losing streak. Connor Joe also homered and Wynton Bernard and José Iglesias hit successive doubles to ignite […]
22 hours ago
Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander, right, and Ryan Mountcastle celebrate Mountcastle's home run ...
Associated Press

Orioles hit 5 homers, outslug Red Sox in wild 15-10 win

BALTIMORE (AP) — Anthony Santander hit one of the Orioles’ five homers and drove in four runs, and Baltimore outslugged the Boston Red Sox 15-10 on Friday night. Jorge Mateo, Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías also connected for the Orioles, who had combined to score three runs in their previous two games, both […]
22 hours ago
Female referee at men’s World Cup wants the game to shine