England’s World Cup qualifier in Andorra on Saturday will be a “very important moment for gender equality”, says manager Gareth Southgate.
It is the first time a senior England’s men’s international is being refereed by a woman – Kateryna Monzul, 40.
Fellow Ukrainians Maryna Striletska and Svitlana Grushko will be the assistant referees for the game.
“For us it is almost irrelevant, the quality of the official is important, not the gender,” said Southgate.
He also reiterated his belief that getting vaccinated is the best way out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tammy Abraham confirmed earlier this week that he is vaccinated, but former Chelsea team-mate Fikayo Tomori chose not to divulge his status, saying it was a “personal issue”.
Southgate has been a key supporter of the Government’s vaccination programme, taking part in a promotional video, and says he is “yet to hear anyone offer an alternative”.
“Everybody knows where I stand on the subject,” he added. “To move out of the pandemic the only way was a vaccination programme. That was essential.
“There are lots of individual circumstances around that. I understand people could be anxious. When you are in the camp of over 50, there is less to consider, it’s a lot more straightforward decision.
“I am a believer that is the right thing to do, but I understand there are other topics where everybody would be aligned and we would all have a clear view as a team.
“With this it is a little bit more nuanced. Lots of people have had the virus so maybe they are feeling antibodies are high, people might have individual medical conditions, some people might have religious reasons.”
‘We want to go one step further than the Euros’
After beating Hungary 4-0 in Budapest and Andorra by the same margin at Wembley in September, England drew 1-1 in Poland to remain unbeaten and top of their World Cup qualifying group, four points ahead of Albania.
Following the trip to Andorra, England host Hungary on Tuesday, and back-to-back wins could see the beaten finalists from Euro 2020 secure a place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar, which will be held from 21 November to 18 December.
“What I liked last month was that there was no complacency in the attitude of the players,” Southgate added.
“There was a feeling of desire to improve and make sure the next steps are the right ones, to keep the standards every day, and of course we have to qualify first.
“That is the task over the next six days, to get six points. There is an understanding that we are close, we are ranked well in the world, our results over a period of time have been consistent but we know we want to go one step further than the summer.”