The role of a match official at a World Cup is often a thankless job.
While players are heaped with praise when they do outstanding work, referees are rarely hailed for doing their job well. Instead, they are routinely lambasted – by players, managers and fans over the slightest of errors.
The reality is that the high-stakes role requires a comprehensive knowledge of the game’s rules, an elite fitness level – often requiring them to run more than outfield players – and years of hard work.
For World Cup 2022, FIFA has released a list of 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video match officials overseeing the video assistant referee (VAR) system.This will be the first World Cup with female match officials – referees Stéphanie Frappart (France), Salima Mukansanga (Rwanda) and Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan); assistant referees Neuza Back (Brazil), Karen Díaz Medina (Mexico) and Kathryn Nesbitt (US).
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will also see the introduction of the new Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based Semi-Automated Offside Technology. The system currently being trialled in the UEFA Champions League group stages is designed to improve the accuracy of offside decisions. Cameras installed under the roof of the stadium track all 22 players recording data points and calculating their exact position on the pitch.
Referees will also utilise goal-line technology, introduced during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The system uses 14 high-speed cameras to create a 3D image animation that can notify the referee immediately if the ball has crossed the line.
Who will referee the 2022 World Cup?
AFC – Asian Football Confederation
- Six referees
- 10 assistant referees
- Four video match officials
Abdulrahman al-Jassim (Qatar) – The 35-year-old Qatari has been a FIFA referee since 2013 and has officiated several high-profile fixtures. He worked as a VAR official at Russia 2018. He has also refereed at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup final between Liverpool and Clube de Regatas do Flamengo.
Chris Beath (Australia) – Like al-Jassim, Beath made a name for himself on the international stage by refereeing at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Alireza Faghani (Iran) – Hailing from Kashmar in northeast Iran, Faghani played football in the country’s third tier before eventually moving into refereeing. He refereed the 2014 AFC Champions League final, the 2018 World Cup and now plies his trade in Australia’s A-League.
Alireza Faghani, one of the top referees in the world, will become a full-time referee for the 2019/20 @ALeague season! pic.twitter.com/pTpf9ZX8WH
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) September 20, 2019
Ma Ning (China) – Ma Ning is only the second Chinese referee to participate in the World Cup.
Mohammed Abdulla Mohamed (UAE) – The Emirati has been a FIFA referee since 2010 and has refereed at the AFC Asian Cup.
Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan) – In April 2022, Yamashita became the first female official to oversee an AFC Champions League match in which she issued three yellow cards to Melbourne City.
“I want it to be seen as perfectly normal for women to referee men’s games, so what is happening in Qatar needs to continue. I feel a certain amount of pressure to win everyone’s trust.”
CAF – Confederation of African football
- Six referees
- 10 assistant referees
- Two video match officials
Bakary Papa Gassama (Gambia) – This will be Gassama’s third World Cup appearance after Brazil 2018 and Russia 2018.
Mustapha Ghorbal (Algeria) – The 37-year-old Algerian has refereed several international matches, including the 2020 CAF Champions League final between Egyptian sides Zamalek and Al Ahly, in which he issued two red cards and five yellow cards.
Victor Gomes (South Africa) – A tough-talking no-nonsense referee, Gomes has made headlines on more than one occasion. In 2018, he reportedly turned down a $30,000 bribe to fix a CAF Confederation Cup game between Nigeria’s Plateau United and Algeria’s USM Alger. In the 2021 AFCON final, Gomes sternly told Egyptian superstar Mohammed Salah to stop complaining before sarcastically offering him his whistle.
Salima Mukansanga (Rwanda) – Mukansanga is continuously making history. She is the first woman from her native Rwanda to referee the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the first woman to ever officiate at the African Cup of Nations and now one of the first women to referee at the men’s World Cup.
Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) – Sikazwe boasts an impressive CV, having refereed the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup final and the 2017 AFCON final and becoming the first Zambian referee to officiate a World Cup in 2018.
However, he is perhaps best remembered for incorrectly calling full-time in the 85th and 89th minute in an AFCON clash between Tunisia and Mali in January this year. It later emerged that he had suffered heat stroke and was later taken to hospital.
Maguette Ndiaye (Senegal) – The Senegalese referee officiated several matches at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.
- Five referees
- 12 assistant referees
- Three video match officials
Ivan Barton (Salvador) – Iván Barton, aged 30, has officiated at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, overseeing the semi-final between Jamaica and the United States and the CONCACAF Nations League.
Ismail Elfath (United States) – Born in Morocco, Elfath came to the US when he was 18 years of age after winning a visa lottery. He made his MLS refeering debut in 2011 and since then has become one of the country’s most respected officials, picking up the MLS Referee of the Year award twice in the past three years. He has officiated at several international tournaments, including the semi-final of the 2019 Club World Cup.
Congratulations to Ismail Elfath, the 2022 MLS Referee of the Year! 👏 pic.twitter.com/AugFkcoJ0r
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 14, 2022
Mario Escobar (Guatemala) – The 36 year old has been a FIFA-listed referee since 2013 and officiated several CONCACAF tournaments.
Said Martinez (Honduras) – At 31 years of age, Said is one of three referees from Central America to officiate at the 2022 World Cup. Said, who also has a degree in Mathematics, refereed the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup final between the United States and Mexico, issuing three yellow cards in extra time.
César Ramos (Mexico) – The 38-year-old Mexican has been a FIFA-listed referee since 2014. He officiated three matches at the 2018 World Cup, including a group stage 1-1 draw between Brazil and Switzerland. During the game, the Brazil players expressed their displeasure with Ramos after he dismissed claims of fouls on two occasions and ruled out any VAR review.
CONMEBOL – South American Football Confederation
- Seven referees
- 15 assistant referees
- Four video match officials
Raphael Claus (Brazil) – The experienced Brazilian most recently refereed at the 2021 Copa América.
Andres Matias Matonte Cabrera (Uruguay) – The Uruguayan most recently officiated at the Arab Cup in 2021. He oversaw Qatar’s 5-0 quarter-final win over UAE, in which he issued two penalties within eight minutes of each other.
Kevin Ortega (Peru) – At 30, the Peruvian referee is one of the youngest on the plane to Qatar. He has officiated several high-pressure matches, including a semi-final in the 2020 Summer Olympics between Spain and Japan.
Fernando Rapallini (Argentina) – The Argentine boasts a wealth of experience officiating in the Argentinian Primera División and international tournaments. Rapallini made history in 2021 when he became the first South American referee to officiate at a European Championship.
Wilton Sampaio (Brazil) – The 40-year-old has been FIFA-listed since 2013 and most recently officiated at the 2021 Copa América.
Facundo Tello (Argentina) – Tello made a name for himself in Argentina after being selected to referee in the country’s first division after only four matches in the second tier. In 2021, he travelled to Qatar to officiate in the 2021 FIFA Arab World Cup.
Jesus Valenzuela (Venezuela) – The 38 year old was first listed as a FIFA referee in 2013. In July 2021, he officiated the infamous semi-final between Colombia and Argentina in the Copa América, in which Valenzuela dished out 10 yellow cards.
There were 20 (!!!) fouls called in the first half of Argentina-Colombia 🤕 pic.twitter.com/GJEugKppV8
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) July 7, 2021
OFC – Oceania Football Confederation
- One referee
- Two assistant referees
Matthew Conger (New Zealand) – Since Australia joined the AFC in 2006, Conger is the only referee representing the OFC at the 2022 World Cup. Originally from Texas, in the US, the part-time teacher refereed one group stage match in the 2018 World Cup.
UEFA – Union of European Football Associations
- 11 referees
- 20 assistant referees
- 11 video match officials
Istvan Kovacs (Romania) – The veteran goalkeeper is set to officiate at his first World Cup this year, having impressed in recent matches, including the Manchester City versus Real Madrid thriller earlier this year in the Champions League. Kovacs played a smart advantage allowing Bernado Silva to rifle home a shot after Toni Kroos fouled Oleksandr Zinchenko in the build-up.
Stephanie Frappart (France) – Frappart plies her trade in France’s Ligue 1 but has notched several high-profile international appearances recently, including the 2019 UEFA Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea. In 2020, she became the first woman to referee a Champions League match. In 2022, she officiated the 2022 Coupe de France final between Nice and Nantes.
👏 You just love to see it
💪 Stephanie Frappart becomes the first woman to referee a men’s @ChampionsLeague match
🛣 Way to blaze a trail, Stephanie pic.twitter.com/j20ywQi4Z1
— FIFA Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWC) December 2, 2020
Danny Makkelie (The Netherlands) – The experienced Dutch referee and part-time policeman has long officiated high-profile matches, including the 2018 Europa League final. The four matches he refereed during last year’s European Championships made him a household name. In the semi-final between Denmark and England at Wembley, Makkelie awarded a controversial penalty to England that allowed them to progress to the final.
Szymon Marciniak (Poland) – The 41-year-old Polish referee comes with bags of experience, having notched up three games at the 2016 European Championships and two at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Antonio Mateu Lahoz(Spain) – The Spaniard is known for his unorthodox chatty approach to officiating but is highly rated by UEFA, who entrusted him with officiating the 2021 Champions League final. In the 2020 European Championships, Mateu oversaw a fractious 2-2 draw between France and Portugal in the group stages, in which he awarded three penalties and four yellow cards.
Michael Oliver (England) – The English referee comes with plenty of domestic experience, officiating high-profile games, such as the 2021 FA Cup final. Oliver has also become a regular in the Champions League, where he is perhaps best remembered for awarding a penalty to Real Madrid that ultimately led to their progression at the expense of Juventus. The decision sparked the usually calm and collected Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon to accuse Oliver of having a “trash can” for a heart.
Daniele Orsato (Italy) – A mainstay of the Champions League, Orsato has refereed both 2020 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and PSG. He also worked as a VAR referee during the 2018 World Cup.
Daniel Siebert (Germany) – He officiated three matches at the 2020 European Championships and was the referee for the 2021 Arab Cup final between Tunisia and Algeria.
Anthony Taylor (England) – The 44-year-old referee has recently been entrusted with fixtures such as the Nations League final between France and Spain. He refereed Denmark versus Finland match in the 2020 European Championships where Christain Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch. Taylor was praised for spotting the situation quickly and swiftly organising medical treatment.
Clement Turpin (France) – Turpin has officiated at the 2016 and 2020 European Championships and the 2018 World Cup. In the 2021-22 season, he officiated nine matches in the UEFA Champions League, including the final.
Slavko Vincic (Slovenia) – Vincic, a qualified telecommunications engineer, was encouraged to try refereeing by his uncle when he was 20 years old. Eleven years later, he was listed as a FIFA referee. He officiated three matches in the 2020 European Championships. He was the referee for this year’s Europa League final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers.
In 2020 Vincic made headlines after being arrested in connection with a police probe into a prostitution and drugs ring operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has been cleared of any wrongdoing.