As a speaker blasts out the song High Hopes – part of a warm-up playlist chosen by the referees themselves – a smile plays across the fitness coach’s face. The match officials have high hopes that they can meet the expectations and requirements demanded of them once the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 starts in three days’ time. They have been working intensively towards this moment for the last three-and-a-half years, and continued to work hard at the referees’ media day on Tuesday 4 June. The 26 referees and 47 assistant referees from 42 different countries gathered on two pitches at the Institut National du Sport (INSEP) in Paris for a series of intense training sessions, including coaching on how to use VAR. "We have been given the best possible training in this short period about how to use VAR technology," said German referee Riem Hussein. "I’m not worried about it; on the contrary, it’s reassuring to know that there is now someone who can protect you from potentially making big mistakes – even though I obviously hope that I’m better than the technology and won’t need to use VAR." As the training sessions drew to a close, the chairman of FIFA’s Referees' Committee, Pierluigi Collina, announced the team of match officials assigned to the opening match between hosts France and Korea Republic on Friday 7 June (21:00 local time). Uruguay’s Claudia Umpierrez will sound her whistle to kick off this summer’s Women’s World Cup. "I’m incredibly happy to have been given this opportunity," the delighted South American told FIFA.com while wiping a tear of joy from her cheek. "All the hard work has paid off. It’s the biggest match of my life. I got a taste of the World Cup at Canada 2015, but this tops everything."
Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of the FIFA Referees' Committee:
"Here we are. This is what we worked towards for three-and-a-half years. These referees are here because they earned the right to be here – they are the best. We started out with 300 officials from six confederations and now we have chosen the best 73. We selected them based on just one criterion: quality. After all, our goal of making this World Cup the best World Cup of all time will come down to the quality of the match officials. Unfortunately two referees are not with us as they are unable to take part for health reasons. This news came as a shock to us, but we wish them both the best and hope they will be back and working with us again soon."
Massimo Busacca, Head of FIFA’s Referees' Department:
"We have worked hard for four years, just like the national teams striving for success at this World Cup. It is just as important for us referees to feel and live out our passion for football as it is for players, so that we can enhance and protect the sport’s image."
Kari Seitz, head of the refereeing project for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019:
"We place great importance on fitness, understanding the rules and good match awareness, as this enables referees to read a game and develop an instinct for different situations. We have been working together for a long time now and have become a family. That’s why the news of Carol Anne Chenard and Yongmei Cui’s withdrawals came as such a shock to us, and we wish both of them all the very best for a full and speedy recovery."
Bibiana Steinhaus, referee (Germany):
"The atmosphere at a World Cup is unique. We work extremely hard for the opportunity to lead the teams into the stadiums, hear the national anthems and be part of the puzzle as referees. Of course, the new challenge for this year is working with the video assistants. We have thoroughly prepared for this in our recent seminars and training courses to ensure that we communicate and use the technology seamlessly. I can assure you that we are ready."
Stephanie Frappart, referee (France):
"This World Cup in my homeland is an absolute highlight for me. I’m incredibly proud and happy to be able to be here. We have all worked very hard to be as prepared as possible. Of course, I will give my all to represent my country well."