For the first time, the International Federation of Association Football, FIFA, included three women referees among its 36 referees to lead the men’s World Cup.
Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga has made history again by becoming the first African female referee at a men’s world cup. The other two are Yamashita Yoshimi from Japan and Stephanie Frappart from France.
Mukusanga has broken new ground before as a referee. She was the first female referee at the 2019 edition of the Women’s World Cup and, earlier this year, she became the first female referee to officiate at the Africa Cup of Nations as a central referee.
In a press release during the inauguration of the female referees, FIFA Chief Referee Pierluigi Collina justified FIFA’s decision to recruit the female referees, noting that “they are not here because they are women but because they are referees selected by the FIFA”.
However, for Mukansanga, refereeing the men’s World Cup is “very exciting and it’s a privilege for me. I never dreamed of going to the Men’s World Cup,” she told FIFA.com.
A nurse by profession, Mukusanga has been a FIFA referee since 2012, officiating international tournaments, including the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Born in the Rusizi district of Rwanda’s western province, the 34-year-old Mukansanga did not have an easy debut in refereeing.
In an interview with the bird story agency in January 2022 during the African Cup of Nations, Mukansanga explained how he got started in refereeing, training in 2007 with four ladies in a camp with more than 40 men.
“No other girl continued. It is a difficult thing because there were times when I felt discouraged, ”she explained.
The dress code for female referees has been a challenge Mukansanga experienced, especially early in her career, with some religious decrees preventing female referees from wearing the standard uniform.
Regardless, she defied all odds starting out in the domestic soccer space after being certified by FIFA in 2012 before taking on international match refereeing roles in 2014 during the Afcon qualifier match between Zambia and Tanzania.
Further assignments tracked her the following year with the Africa Cup of Nations Games held in Brazzaville and the 2015 Women’s CECAFA held in Jinja where she was a key referee.
However, he rose to prominence in 2016 during the U-17 World Cup in Uruguay in 2018, where he refereed several matches, including Germany against Canada.
The Rwandan woman hopes to be an inspiration to girls around the world, especially in Africa:
“I want young girls to look at me and follow me because I am also here now because I took the advice of the people,” she said. – bird story agency