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Salima Mukansanga: Rwandan Set To Become First Female World Cup Referee

Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga

Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda is one of the six women who will for the first time officiate at the World Cup in Qatar. She is set to become the first female referee to preside over a world cup match.

The others are Stéphanie Frappart of France and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan, as well as assistant referees Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States, Neuza Back of Brazil, and Karen Daz Medina of Mexico.

But who is Mukansanga?  

Born in 1998, Mukansanga hails from Rusizi District, West Province of Rwanda. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and Midwifery from the University of Gitwe in Rwanda’s South Province in Ruhango District. Mukansanga, whose dream was to become a basketball player, discovered her interest in football refereeing during her high school years at St. Vincent de Paul Musanze.

She was allocated several matches in the men’s second-division league and the women’s top tier in 2008 after getting her qualification in match officiating before being promoted to a CAF referee four years later.  Her career was launched when she was appointed to officiate the 2014 CAF African Women’s Championship qualifying match 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 Rwanda in an interview earlier.

After the Zambia versus Tanzania game, Mukansanga was elevated to take up international matches, and her maiden assignment came at the 2015 All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

It was here that she oversaw the tournament opener between Nigeria and Tanzania, as well as the semi-final match between Ghana and Ivory Coast. After that competition, she came to Uganda to oversee the 2015 Cecafa Women Challenge Cup in Jinja, Uganda.

In 2016, she was listed among the 47 officials that took charge of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon, and she was in control of the finals between Cameroon and Nigeria. Later, she was selected to take part in the U17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay in 2018 and she took charge of the Group A fixture between Uruguay and New Zealand before officiating at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

The 35-year-old made history again in January 2022 when she became the first woman to officiate at the men’s 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Her first duty during the Afcon tournament came in the Group B match between Zimbabwe and Guinea.

“After the game, my colleagues were laughing, it got emotional then I cried in the locker room. I was really happy, very happy and excited because my dream came true,” Mukansanga earlier told DW.

This week, the Federation of International Football Association-FIFA released the final list of 36 referees, 69 assistant referees, and 24 video match officials that will be overseeing the video assistant referee (VAR) system at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.


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