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Salima Mukansanga, first female referee in AFCON history

At the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon, a female Rwandan referee, Salima Mukansanga, made history by becoming the tournament’s first female official in the tournament’s 65-year history.

Salima Mukansanga served as the fourth official—a second official who assists the referee by supervising replacement processes and doing other administrative duties—for Guinea’s group stage match against Malawi on Jan. 10. And in that month, on Jan. 18, she officiated Zimbabwe’s group stage match against Guinea.

“It’s a privilege. It’s a pleasure to me, to the rest of African women referees,” Mukansanga said at a press conference on Jan. 21 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the tournament’s organizer. “It’s [an] opportunity to open the door and to show that all African [women] are capable. They are capable of reaching that stage.”

Mukansanga has also served as a referee at the Olympics, Women’s World Cup, Africa Women Cup of Nations, and CAF Women’s Champions League.

Her most recent accomplishment, in Africa’s most prestigious soccer competition, is a watershed moment in the development of female referees on the continent and throughout the sport.

Writing by Saadatu Albashir