Yoshimi Yamashita admits that the “pressure is huge” as she prepares to make history by breaking down gender barriers at the 2022 World Cup, with the Japanese referee one of three women selected by FIFA to figure prominently at the finals in Qatar.
Stephanie Frappart of France and Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda are the other female officials to have been included in an elite group of 36 that are in contention to take charge of games during the global gathering in the Middle East.
Yamashita is rightly proud of her standing within that pack – with three female assistant referees also included in pool of 69 there – but she acknowledges that the spotlight will be on those looking to drag football into the 21st century.
Have female officials been used at the World Cup before?
No female referee has ever taken charge of a World Cup fixture in the long and distinguished history of the competition, with the history books about to be re-written in Qatar.
Yamashita has said of her role in that process – having previously officiated in the men’s J League and at the Tokyo Olympic Games: “Of course, I think the pressure is huge 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 added: “One of the big goals as a referee is to bring out the attractiveness of soccer.
“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 towards the big goal of bringing out the appeal of soccer.”
What challenges will be faced by female officials?
Yamashita is well versed in the demands of officiating at an elite level, having also turned out in the Asian Champions League, but admits that the speed of the game can take some getting used to.
On the biggest challenges that she faces out in the middle, the 36-year-old Tokyo native said: “It’s the speed, but not just the players’ speed.
“Not the ball speed. It’s just the game speed. It means for me I have to make quicker decisions — more speed.”
Those qualities will be put to good use when the 2022 World Cup finals get underway on November 21, with the tournament running through to a finish on December 18.