FIFA World Cup qualifiers
Assistant referee Kathryn Nesbitt runs the sideline as she watches play between Bermuda and Canada during the FIFA World Cup Group B qualifying match in Orlando.
Nesbitt becomes a pioneer as FIFA appointed women to work as on-field officials for men’s qualifiers
WASHINGTON, March 27: Kathryn Nesbitt ran the sidelines, waving a flag, blending in for all the right reasons.
The 32-year-old from Philadelphia became a pioneer as FIFA appointed women to work as on-field officials for men’s World Cup qualifiers, serving as an assistant referee on Thursday night when Canada opened with a 5-1 rout of Bermuda at Orlando, Florida.
There were no controversies in a match that featured Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies setting up three goals for Besiktas’ Cyle Larin. Nesbitt disappeared into the background as much as one can while working in a yellow jersey and black shorts, an orange and yellow flag in her hands.
FIFA announced the first men’s World Cup qualifiers with woman referees will be when Stphanie Frappart of France works the Netherlands’ match against visiting Latvia on Saturday and Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine calls Austria’s game versus the visiting Faeroe Islands on Sunday.
Karen Diaz Medina of Mexico served as an assistant referee for Suriname’s 3-0 win over the Cayman Islands on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping that people will bring her to the men’s World Cup in a couple of years instead of the Women’s World Cup – actually both,” said Rick Eddy, US Soccer’s director of referee development.
“If FIFA really wants to make a stand towards saying they’re supporting women, here’s their opportunity.”
Nesbitt worked in 18 MLS games last season, including the MLS is Back tournament final, and was voted the league’s assistant referee of the year. The workload of the 6-foot tall official has included 82 league games in all since 2015 plus seven more as an assistant video referee during the last two seasons.
Nesbitt earned a FIFA badge in 2016 and officiated at that year’s Women’s Under-17 World Cup, the 2018 Women’s Under-20 World Cup, and two matches at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“She’s pretty imposing physically,” said Howard Webb, a Premier League referee from 2003-14 who is entering his fourth season as general manager of Major League Soccer’s Professional Referee Organisation.
“She’s tall, athletic. She’s very calm and clearly intelligent as well. She is able to process a lot of information quickly and accurately.”
In US soccer, “The Professor” was the nickname of Jlio Mazzei, who served two stints as coach of the Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League in 1979-80. Nesbitt is a real professor with a PhD. She taught analytical chemistry as an assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland from 2017-19.
She quit to become a full-time soccer official.
“I actually started when I was 14 years old. Clearly, that was more of a hobby at the time,” she said.
“So it’s just kind of made its way into a career over the last 20 years or so.” – AP