The narrative of women in sports often finds itself relegated to the sidelines. It is our mission to change that, to amplify their accomplishments and to weave a tapestry of stories that inspire and empower. Our column Latin Women in Sports seeks to applaud their triumphs, break down barriers, and champion the idea that in sports, as in life, every voice deserves to be heard.

Edina Alves, Brazil
In 2021, Edina Alves became the first woman to officiate a senior FIFA men's match, taking charge of the fifth-place match at the FIFA Club World Cup Ailton Cruz/Via O Globo/CBF

SEATTLE - Copa América 2024 is set to be a groundbreaking moment for women with the inclusion of women referees for the first time in the history of the tournament. Copa América, which runs from June 20 to July 14 hosted by the United States, will have a total of 101 match officials, including eight women.

Out of those eight, two were selected to serve as head officials, with five assistants and one assigned to the Video Assistant Referee booth.

For the past few years, women referees have been given more and more opportunities to work high-profile men games and tournaments. Top divisions in France, Germany, England and even UEFA's top competition, the UEFA Champions League, have seen a woman officiate men's matches in recent years.

Just last December, Rebecca Walsh became the first woman to officiate a Premier League game. Burnley manager Vincent Kompany called it a "milestone moment" for one of the most important sporting leagues in the world.

Latin American countries have also taken huge strides towards promoting gender equality in various tournaments. For the first time ever, CONMEBOL assigned four assistants for this year's Copa Libertadores U-20 tournament while Mexico also saw a woman referee a Liga MX game for the first time in over two decades.

As part of a commitment that started in 2016, the Brazilian Edina Alves and the American Maria Penso will be first women in history to serve as head officials at a Copa América game. Neuza Back, Mary Blanco, Migdalia Rodríguez, Brooke Mayo and Kathryn Nesbitt will work the sidelines as assistants. The Nicaraguan Tatiana Guzmán will serve as a video review official.

The Brazilian Alves became the first woman to referee a senior men's FIFA tournament at the Club World Cup in 2021 while her compatriot Back and the American Nesbitt participated at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

While speaking at the Making Trade Score for Women! event last year, FIFA's Head of Refereeing, Women, Kari Seitz was proud of the number of "firsts being achieved" in recent years. "As of 2017, we only had women at three international men's competitions, and now women referees have officiated in over 25 Men's International Competitions," Seitz said.

"We are talking about the men's champions leagues in Europe, Asia, and North and Central America. We're talking about the CONMEBOL Libertadores...we are talking about in Africa, and in the African Cup of Nations for men, that we've had women referees. It's incredible to see this kind of momentum in just a few years," Seitz added.

Out of the eight women set to officiate games at Copa América 2024, three of them have also been selected to officiate games at the 2024 Olympic football tournament set to be held between July 24-August 10 in France.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.