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Copa Libertadores Makes History With First Female Refs — But Not By Choice

Progress is progress, but it took a pandemic for it to happen.

BUENOS AIRES — The Copa Libertadores made history on Thursday with its first female officials, drafted in at the last minute to officiate in two matches after the scheduled officials tested positive for COVID-19.

Four Brazilians were among those named to run the Racing v Nacional game in Buenos Aires but they tested positive and were replaced by two Chileans and two Argentines, one of whom was assistant referee Mariana de Almeida.

The situation was repeated in the match between Argentine side Defensa y Justicia and Ecuadorean club Delfin.

Two Chileans were among the five officials named to take charge of the game but the pair, an assistant referee and fourth official, tested positive for COVID-19 and were replaced by new officials, including Argentine assistant Daiana Milone.

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Although female officials have long appeared at the top level in nations such as Brazil and Argentina, they had never been named to officiate in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of Europe's Champions League.

The Libertadores restarted this week after a six-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic but continued positive tests have caused problems in the Americas, the region with the world’s highest number of infections and deaths.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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