Salima Mukansanga: The First African Female Referee To Officiate A Men’s World Cup Match
By day, more and more Africans continue to make history and represent the continent at the highest of world stages. On Tuesday, November 22, 2022, Rwandese referee Salima Mukansanga inked her name into the history books, becoming the first African female referee to officiate a men’s World Cup match. Earlier in the year, Mukansanga also […] The post Salima Mukansanga: The First African Female Referee To Officiate A Men’s World Cup Match appeared first on whownskenya.
By day, more and more Africans continue to make history and represent the continent at the highest of world stages. On Tuesday, November 22, 2022, Rwandese referee Salima Mukansanga inked her name into the history books, becoming the first African female referee to officiate a men’s World Cup match.
Earlier in the year, Mukansanga also made history as the first woman to referee at the African Cup of Nations leading an all-woman team in the group-stage match between Zimbabwe and Guinea on January 18, 2022.
Salima boasts a number of high profile matches on the global stage having officiated in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the 2018 Under 17 Women’s World Cup among others. Here is her inspiring story as narrated by WoK.
Background & Education
Mukansanga was born in 1988 and raised in Rusizi in the West Province of Rwanda.
According to Goal, the 34-year-old attended St Vincent de Paul Musanze Secondary School before proceeding to the University of Gitwe in Rwanda where she attained a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and Midwifery.
While a student in high school, she wanted to be a basketball player but her career in the sport was negatively affected by the lack of basketball facilities and so she switched her focus to football.
During her final year at the school, she officiated a school tournament and that marked the beginning of her refereeing career.
‘I liked basketball and wanted to take it very seriously, but access to basketball facilities and coaches was hard. That’s how I ended up in refereeing, which I have also never regretted. I love it,” Mukansanga told New Times in a 2019 interview.
After finishing school, she took a year to learn and understand the basics of refereeing the game and began officiating men’s second-division and women’s top-tier matches.
After four years of determination and hard work, she became a CAF referee and started officiating matches across the continent. All this time she was an assistant referee.
She took the next step in 2004 after she was selected to officiate a CAF Women’s Championship game between Zambia and Tanzania as the center referee.
“It is because of how I handled that match that I proved my ability to lead matches at any level on the continent. It was an exciting experience. Since that day, I have been trusted to officiate countless international matches in Africa and beyond,” Mukansinga stated.
She was at the center of the All African Games held in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo in 2015. She refereed the opener between Tanzania and Nigeria, and also the semi-final clash between Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Salima would then follow up the tournament with a major role in the 2015 Cecafa Women Challenge Cup in Jinja, Uganda.
In 2016, Mukansanga continued to rise after she was named part of the 47 officials who refereed the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon and took charge of the final game between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Her remarkable performance earned her a spot at the 2018 under 17 Women’s world cup in Uruguay, taking charge of the group stage fixture between the hosts and New Zealand.
Salima was also an official at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Refereeing at the Men’s World Cup
Speaking to FIFA.com, Mukansanga stated that she had always wished to officiate at the tournament and termed her selection as a dream come true.
“It was very exciting, and this is a privilege for me. I had never dreamed to go to the men’s World Cup,” she said.
“The first time I was nominated to go to a World Cup, was in France for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, so my next target was more at the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2023.
“Being appointed to the Men’s World Cup is something new, another opportunity we get. It means FIFA recognises that women are working hard, that we are providing quality refereeing and that we can deliver and reach higher, up to the top of the men’s game,” Salima said.
Being a Female Referee at Men’s games
Mukansanga notes that initially there were no women refereeing men’s matches, and when it started to become a thing and she got into it, it initially felt odd.
“At a time it was new because we didn’t see women referees. It is a field dominated by men. People did not accept what we were doing. They would reluctantly say “She’s doing fine”,” she said.
“But within me, I had a big dream to reach far, to be a professional referee, but people did not accept me. However, day by day, they started to accept it more, because of the decisions I took. They found that I was making fair 2/5 decisions and so they tried to accept.
“After more time, they also started to encourage young girls to get involved in those fields dominated by men, so it was a good time for me as I knew many of the other female referees and we could present a more powerful appearance together,” she explained.
Looking back at where she has come from and what she has achieved, Salima notes that she has no regrets whatsoever and aspires to continue breaking barriers.
“I’m not regretting anything. Here I am, and I deserve to be here. This is my time, and I have to seize this time to make it shine. I’m really glad to be going to the World Cup, because I worked hard for this,” she reflected.
“I can stand on my decisions until the future because I want my future to be bright. And I want young girls to look at me and follow in my footstep, because me too, I am now here because I followed the advice of people who have been there. Now, it is the time and I keep focused on the World Cup.”
Mukansanga urges aspiring and upcoming female referees to be bold in their ambitions, be resilient, and seize every opportunity available to them.
“Wherever you are coming from, don’t feel shy. Don’t feel depressed. Don’t let anyone ever say that you will never get there.
“You will, because of what you want to be. Today, I am here, and I never thought I would. It means you too can have that. Keep working hard, follow your dreams, focus on what you want to be, because the future is bright. Whatever you want to be, you will be,” she advices.
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