New Delhi: When Japan take on New Caledonia on October 14, it will be a piece of football history for the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 as it will see the first woman referee in the tournament. So it will be Esther Staubli who will be officiating in the game. The 38-year-old Swiss woman is one of the seven female referees who has been invited for this tournament. This is a step taken by FIFA to develop women’s football.

Another positive aspect is that the women referees have an opportunity to gain more experience. High-level competition matches are often limited during the year in their respective regions and so such opportunities are crucial as the referees prepare for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019.

“In having the opportunity to now work together with their male colleagues at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, FIFA’s female referees are one step further in their preparation and in their careers at the top level,” a release said.

That FIFA has selected female referees for a men’s tournament is a logical consequence of an education programme that FIFA’s Refereeing Department started in 2016. The positive results and improvements seen in the joint preparations have shown that the time has come for elite female referees to officiate in men’s competitions together with their male colleagues. (With PTI inputs)