Rwandan Salima Mukansanga makes history as first woman Afcon referee

Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga on Tuesday became the first woman to officiate an Africa Cup of Nations game when she took charge of the match between Zimbabwe and Guinea in Cameroon.

Mukansanga walked out onto the pitch holding the match ball accompanied by three male match officials, with Zimbabwe going on to win the game 2-1.

After the match, supporters from Zimbabwe said they were inspired by Mukansanga and believed this was a good step forward for the continent.

“Women are being represented and are also being involved in this sport that for a long time was regarded as for men,” said Zimbabwe supporter Felicia Chisepo.

In Rwanda, the young female players of soccer club AS Kigali and their coach Egidie Kayitesi watched the game on television.

“She is someone who gives great importance to each game, that’s why you see Salima at this level,” said Kayitesi, who was in charge of Mukansanga’s team when she was a youth player.

“She has an exceptional character. When she has a match, she prepares for it.”

On January 10, Mukansanga was appointed as the fourth official for the Afcon Group B match between Guinea and Malawi in Bafoussam. It meant she was the first woman to be appointed as any official for an Afcon match.

Confederation of African Football (Caf) head of referees, Eddy Maillet said it was an important moment in African football.

He added that it was due to Caf’s “clear commitment and investment to improve and advance the standard of refereeing in Africa.”

“We are super proud of Salima because she has had to work exceptionally hard to be where she is today. We know that for a woman, she has had to overcome serious obstacles to reach this level and she deserves a lot of credit,” Maillet said.

“This moment is not just for Salima but for every young girl in Africa who has passion for football and who sees herself as a referee in the future,” he added.

The four women were also among 19 African referees chosen to officiate in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Mukansanga and Karboubi will be part of a select group of officials set to perform as head referees.

Meanwhile, Atemzabong and Jermoumi will perform assistant referee duties at the showpiece event.

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