Salima Mukansanga Made History at the Africa Cup of Nations as Inaugural Female Referee
As countries battle it out on the field for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, it is fitting to recognize and chronicle the remarkable women of African football. One such pioneer is Salima Mukansanga, who etched her name in history as the inaugural female referee in Cameroon's 33rd Africa Cup of Nations for men.
Raised in Rusizi District, West Province, Salima pursued a nursing and midwifery degree at the University of Gitwe in Rwanda's South Province, Ruhango District. According to Goal Despite aspiring to be a basketball player,she shifted her focus to football due to limited basketball resources. Her journey into football officiating began during her final year at St Vincent de Paul Musanze Secondary School when she refereed a championship match.
"Refereeing has been my passion since I faced challenges accessing basketball facilities," shared Mukansanga in a 2019 interview with New Times.
Although her initial interest lay in basketball, she transitioned to football after being deemed too young for the national under-17 basketball team. Despite facing initial rejection by the Rwanda Football Federation for her age, she independently grasped football's rules and commenced her career by officiating local amateur men's matches and women's second-division games.
Mukansanga's journey led her to officiate at prestigious events like the Olympics, FIFA Women's World Cup, Africa Women's Cup of Nations, and the CAF Women's Champions League. Her accomplishments culminated in being selected as one of three female referees for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022. On November 22, 2022, she achieved a monumental feat as the first female African referee in a premier men's football event, officiating as the fourth official during France's 4-1 victory over Australia.
In recognition of her achievements, Mukansanga was included in the BBC 100 Women list in December 2022. Additionally, FIFA invited her to join the officiating team for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.