History was made on January 18 2022 after Rwanda referee Salima Rhadia Mukansanga became the first woman to officiate at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
The 35-year-old took charge of the Group B contest between Zimbabwe and Guinea.
It was the Warriors who carried the day after beating the Syli Nationale 2-1 at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.
Mukansanga managed a team of match officials which included a female VAR, Bouchra Karboubi from Morocco.
Before taking to the pitch as the centre referee, Mukansanga had already served as the fourth official during the Malawi versus Guinea fixture which ended 1-0 in favour of the latter.
She cautioned five players during the Warriors versus Syli Nationale game—Guinea’s Naby Keita, Mamadou Kane, Ibrahima Cisse, while goalkeeper Talbert Shumba and midfielder Kudakwashe Mahachi were the culprits from the Zimbabwe side.
Born in 1998, Mukansanga is an international football referee, who comes from Rwanda.
According to Rwanda’s New Times, Mukansanga, who was raised in Rusizi District, West Province, has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and midwifery attained from the University of Gitwe, located in Rwanda’s South Province, Ruhango District.
Her aspiration while in school was to become a basketball player, but it was never to be because she lacked a lot of basic needs, including basketball facilities.
However, she turned her focus to football and during her final year at St Vincent de Paul Musanze Secondary School, she officiated in a school tournament final game and it is here that her road to football refereeing started.
“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 during an interview in 2019.
After one year of learning the basics in refereeing and finishing school, she started climbing the ladder step by step by officiating in the men’s second division league and the women’s top-tier league.
She then rose to prominence four years later as she was promoted to become a Confederation of African Football (CAF) licensed referee and it is at this juncture when the door opened and she started officiating in matches across Africa.
But all this happened as she took up the role of assistant referee.
However, in 2004, she was assigned the centre referee, her first time to take up the role during the CAF African Women’s Championship battle between Zambia and Tanzania.
“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,” she told New Times after officiating in the game.
After the Zambia versus Tanzania game, Mukansanga was now elevated to take up international matches and her first duty came at the 2015 All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
It is here when she handled the tournament’s opener between Nigeria and Tanzania and then she was also in charge of the semi-final battle between Ghana and Ivory Coast.
After the tournament, she returned to Uganda to officiate the 2015 Cecafa Women Challenge Cup in Jinja, Uganda.
Former Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye says he is not surprised by Mukansanga’s rise to stardom, insisting she was always ready to learn.
“I worked with [Salima] Mukansanga at many Cecafa tournaments across the East African region and I can tell you I knew straight away her star was on the rise,” Musonye told GOAL.
“She could always approach me after every match she had officiated at Cecafa to ask me if she got it right, if she did it wrong and if there are any areas she needs to improve on.
“Salima was ready to learn and I was, therefore, not surprised to see CAF give her the game between Zimbabwe and Guinea, she deserved it and congratulations to her.”
Mukansanga continued to rise and in 2016, she was among 47 officials that took charge of the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon and she was in control of the final between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Her performance in Cameroon saw her listed to officiate at the U17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay in 2018 and she took charge of the Group A fixture between Uruguay and New Zealand.
Mukansanga was also an official at the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
With the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon, Mukansanga could still oversee other matches from the knockout stage to add to her already glittering career.—Goal.com
—Additional information New Times