Malawi’s most decorated referee Bernadette Kwimbira-Mzika has won the World Best Female Referee Award.
The Fifa assistant referee alongside Rwandan referee Salma Mukasanga were among 16 nominees the International Federation for Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) shortlisted.
In an interview yesterday Kwimbira-Mzika described the award as good for her bid to officiate her third consecutive World Cup finals in 2023 after Canada in 2015 and France in 2019,
She said: “This is so huge. I am so grateful to God and it’s a great motivation for my nomination for the World Cup New Zealand/Australia in 2023. I will keep on working hard.
“This just shows that we have the potential in Malawi and we are working hard to be at par with the rest of high-profile African referees.”
The former athlete and Malawi Defence Force soldier also applauded Football Association of Malawi (FAM) for supporting her to become a top-notch referee.
“I would like to commend FAM for playing a big role to develop referees in the country although there are some individuals within National Football Referees Association who want to pull us down,” said Kwimbira-Mzika.
Reacting to the development, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said she was an epitome of football in Malawi, especially in refereeing.
He said: “Bernadette is our shining star. She continues to dominate and impress on the international stage. She is the torch-bearer of Malawi football and our referees in particular.
“As our hero, she deserves a special award of distinction for excellence in national service.
“This follows her outstanding performance at the Tokyo Olympics this year which demonstrates that Malawi has talent and there is loads of potential from our female athletes.”
Kwimbira-Mzika has also officiated at Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, Rio Olympics in Brazil and Women’s Africa Cup of Nations since 2012.
According to a statement, IFFHS shortlisted Anastasia Pustovoitova (Russia), Stephanie Frappart (France), Esther Staubili (Swizerland), Kateryna Monzu (Ukraine), Shona Shukuru (The Netherlands), Edina Alves Bastista (Brazil), Mariana de Almeida (Argentina), Valeria Palma (Chile), Karen Diaz Medina ( Mexico), Kathryn Nesbitt (USA), Melissa Borges (Honduras), Nazemideylami Galerah (Iran), Kate Jacewicz (Australia), Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan) Mwakasenga (Rwanda) and the Malawian.
Among others, they were nominated based on their performance at international level, football understanding and interpretation of the laws. Polish prolific forward Robert Lewandowsi was named the best footballer after beating Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.