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Stéphanie Frappart: the ref that went unnoticed - and that's the biggest compliment

The Super Cup final was an entertaining match in which referee Stéphanie Frappart and her two assistants on the touch lines had an impressive debut on the big European stage.

Frappart had just recently been promoted to Ligue 1, in which she arbitrated two fixtures last season, as well as one French cup game. That is very little experience in the men’s game to be handed a challenge of such magnitude as the UEFA Super Cup final (though it must be added that Frappart has ample experience in the female game and refereed the final of the Women’s Women Cup). No male referee would have been given a game of such rank with so little experience. But it is a clear case of positive discrimination that must be understood because it is in these times that the barriers of the past must be broken down.

Stéphanie Frappart and her assistants, Italy's Manuela Nicolisi and Michelle O'Neill of the Republic of Ireland.

It was a big challenge. And Frappart – firm, well placed, and attentive throughout, while also avoiding any entanglements – lived up to it. Long ago, it was said that the best referee was the one that went unnoticed. That phrase has since been lost, but it's still the best compliment, and we saw that yesterday. Frappart, so much the subject of news in the build-up, made for little news during the game. The football flowed naturally, and nobody was concerned if the ref was a man or woman; plant or fish… a job well done.

The match went to extra time, a test of everyone’s physical endurance, including her own. And then came the penalty on which not everyone will agree. It was a difficult call; a collision between attacker and goalkeeper in which it is difficult to discern whether the goalkeeper took his opponent down or the striker sought the foul.

She gave a penalty because it was what she saw, but the nature of football, either with VAR or without VAR, always leaves space for debate. But overall, it great was refereeing (helped of course by the players' general good behaviour) that allowed the game to shine in all its splendour.