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Soccer: Japan's Yamashita among 1st women World Cup referees

Yoshimi Yamashita. (Kyodo)

LONDON (Kyodo) -- Japan's Yoshimi Yamashita was named Thursday as one of three women referees for this year's FIFA World Cup, marking the first time world soccer's body has chosen women to officiate its flagship men's tournament.

    The 36-year-old Yamashita officiated at the 2019 Women's World Cup, and at last year's Tokyo Olympics. Last year, she became the first woman to officiate men's pro games in Japan's J-League, and this year the first to be handed the whistle at Asian Champions League games.

    FIFA announced a list of 36 referees, 69 assistant referees, including three women, and 24 video match officials for the finals to be held starting in November in Qatar.

    "As always, the criteria we have used is 'quality first' and the selected match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide," the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina, said on FIFA's website. "The 2018 World Cup was very successful, partly because of the high standard of refereeing, and we will do our best to be even better in a few months in Qatar."

    No other Japanese were among those named Thursday. There is no guarantee that all those chosen will actually officiate in the World Cup finals.

    All the candidates will undergo further training and monitoring prior to the final selections.

    Collina said women officials have been employed in men's junior and senior tournaments in the long buildup to this.

    "In this way, we clearly emphasize that it is quality that counts for us and not gender," he said. "They deserve to be at the FIFA World Cup because they constantly perform at a really high level, and that's the important factor for us."

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