Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga is set to make history at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as the first woman to officiate as a center referee at the tournament.
Mukansanga is part of the FIFA International Referees List, and this makes her qualified to officiate at the international level and wear a FIFA badge on her uniform, GiveMeSport reports. The 33-year-old international football referee has already been in charge of matches at the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and the CAF Women’s Champions League as well as the Women’s World Cup.
She was also a referee in the women’s football event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan. Mukansanga is now being praised as she is set to officiate a men’s game at the AFCON.
This year’s AFCON started Sunday with Cameroon going against Burkina Faso in the opening match at Olembe Stadium in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde. Five-time champions Cameroon is the host nation of the 33rd edition of one of men’s football’s major international tournaments.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) released a list of 63 match officials who will officiate at the tournament; Mukansanga is one of four women on the list.
The others are Cameroon’s Carine Atemzabong, Morocco’s Fatiha Jermoumi and Bouchra Karboubi. However, none of these three will referee matches, according to the report by GiveMeSport. In other words, while the other three women will work as assistant referees, Mukansanga will officiate as a center referee.
Mukansanga decided to become a referee 15 years ago even though she had wanted to become a professional basketball player while in her teens. She has officiated many matches in Rwanda since 2018 and officiating at AFCON will certainly be one of her best moments.
AFCON, founded in 1957 and sanctioned by CAF, is the main international men’s association football competition in Africa. The most successful nation is Egypt, with seven titles in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Egypt are also the only national team to win the tournament three times in a row — 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Algeria are the reigning champions, winning their second title in 2019.
This year’s AFCON was originally scheduled to be played in 2021 but was postponed twice due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.