Salima Mukansanga: Pioneering African Female Referee

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Gone are the days when you couldn’t see any women at any level in football. Today, there’s quite a number of them and more are being encouraged to join. Rwandan referee Salim Mukansanga is one of the women who’ve stepped up. Salima Mukansanga achieved a lot of milestones in her career. Let’s find out how she made it.

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Salim Mukansanga’s Biography

Salim Mukansanga was born on 1988. She played basketball and was eager to represent her country in the U-17 national team. However, she wasn’t old enough to do it. This is where things changed as she chose football.

“When I saw football matches, I noticed these people who could change everything and I always thought about them.” 

Salima Mukansanga began her officiating career in high school. She admits that it wasn’t as easy as she thought. Reading the rule book is different from using the rules during the game. After her high school spell, Salim wanted more.

She approached the Rwandan Football Federation (Ferwafa) for it’s training program but she was turned down for being young. That didn’t put her off. She did self-training and was later invited by Ferwafa to undergo training. 

Since then, Salim has officiated games in the Rwandan men’s football league, the 2016 Women’s Nations Cup, the Tokyo Olympics, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

Salima Mukansanga also been part of some of the biggest moments in the inclusion of women in sports. In the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Salim was one of the three female referees to officiate in the tournament alongside Stephanie Frappart and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita.

At the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, she became the first woman to officiate. These are some of Salim’s most significant achievements in her career, and she recalls them vividly.

“After the final whistle, I was really emotional and happy. That emotion came from my colleagues because we made history and made the game go smoothly. We deserve to be here. We have our background, and from that comes passion and hard work, which is the fruit.”

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Challenges of Officiating

As a female referee, Salim Mukansanga has faced numerous challenges ranging from pushback from men to tackling the differences between men and women and cultural differences.

Salim Salima Mukansangasays that men’s speed is way above women’s, and thus have to do more to keep up with the game’s pace. To help with that, Salim trains with male referees to ensure her fitness levels match. 

Other challenges she’s encountered have to do with women’s biological makeup. 

“We have our period – so sometimes you can’t be able to run or officiate. If pregnant – you can’t run. We give birth – so need time to recover, to prepare the body again for the next journey.” Salim told the BBC

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Officiating in Africa

Having female referees is fairly common nowadays. In fact, 11 referees selected to work at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup are African. They include:

Vincenta Amedome: The Togolese officiated a match between the Philippines and Switzerland.

Akhona Makalima: She worked on China vs. Denmark at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She’s refereed since 2014 and worked on other international events like the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and the CAF Women’s Champions League. 

Others include Bouchra Karboubi, Mary Njoroge, Soukaina Hamdi and Fatiha Jermoumi.

Salim Mukansanga has opened the door for many female officials in the continent. Her achievements prove that women can rise to the highest levels in sports.

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