Female referees at the World Cup will not face restrictions based on cultural or religious grounds in matches involving conservative nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, referees chief Pierluigi Collina said on Friday.

The Qatar World Cup, which begins on Sunday, will have female referees officiating at a men’s World Cup for the first time.

Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga, Yamashita Yoshimi of Japan and Frenchwoman Stephanie Frappart along with three female assistant referees have been selected for the global showpiece event.

“It (presence of female referees) is something new, it’s something that attracts attention, it attracts interest,” Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, told reporters.

“For us, they are referees, they are match officials. This is the message I gave them. ‘You are here not because you are women, you are here because you are FIFA match officials’.

“All match officials can be appointed for all matches. If there are restrictions, because there are restrictions, they are restrictions concerning their role here.

“We have some restrictions due to neutrality, for instance. But they are here as FIFA World Cup 2022 match officials and they are ready to officiate any kind of match, depending on their performances … depending on our thoughts,” he added.

Mukansanga said the female referees have been chosen not simply based on their gender but because they deserve the chance.

“We are here because we deserve to be here. Back at our confederation, or back at home it is another level, so this is the biggest level of football,” Mukansanga said.

“So being here means we deserve to be here, it’s not a change or because we are women.”

Assistant referee Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States said they feel welcome.

“We feel like we are one referee team here, no difference man or woman,” she said.