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By ESPN Staff

Viennot could be first female World Cup linesman

BERLIN -- Nelly Viennot of France could become the first female linesman at a World Cup if she passes fitness and skills tests, FIFA officials said on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old, who became the first woman to run the line in France's first division in 1996, is one of 82 candidates for 60 places at the tournament in Germany.

"There is certainly excitement about the possibility she could be the first female referee's assistant in the World Cup," said FIFA spokesman Andreas Werz.

"But we want to underscore the fact that she is not going to be at the workshop because she's a woman and we want to have a woman," he said by telephone from Zurich.

"Rather, she is coming because of the fact that she is good enough to be among the best assistants in the world."

Viennot has long worked as a linesman in a team led by compatriot Eric Poulat. Poulat was named last month as one of the 23 referees for the World Cup.

Also on his team are Lionel Dagorne and Vincent Texier. At least two of the three assistants have to pass the tests later this month or else the entire quartet is ruled out.

Viennot, from the town of Flers in northern France, has had experience as a linesman in Champions League matches as well as at the Olympics in 1996 and 2004. She was a referee at the 2003 women's World Cup.

"It would be special," said Werz. "It could show that in the future other female assistants could have an opportunity to be at a World Cup -- and why not a female referee in the future?

"There's nothing in the statutes that says this is not possible." The World Cup runs from June 9 to July 9.