Africa Cup of Nations: Salima Mukansanga becomes tournament's first ever female referee

Salima Mukansanga

Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga will make history at the African Cup of Nations as the first woman to ever referee at the tournament.

Mukansanga is part of the FIFA International Referees List – making her qualified to officiate at international level and wear a FIFA badge on her uniform.

The 33-year-old is already an experienced and well-respected official in the women’s game, having taken charge of matches at the Women’s World Cup, Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and the CAF Women’s Champions League.

Mukansanga also served as a referee in the women’s football event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan –– a tournament which was surprisingly won by Canada.

And now, the Rwandan referee has been given the opportunity to take charge of matches at one of men’s football’s major international tournaments.



CAF have released a list of 63 match officials who will officiate at the tournament and Mukansanga is one of four women on the list.

The others include Cameroon’s Carine Atemzabong, plus Morocco’s Fatiha Jermoumi and Bouchra Karboubi, though none of these three will referee matches.

According to local websites in Rwanda, Makansanga wanted to become a professional basketball player as a teenager but decided to become a referee 15 years ago.

Since 2018 she has taken charge of numerous matches in Rwanda and has now landed her biggest opportunity yet.

She has been likened to former Italian referee Pierluigi Collina because of her similar temperament.

Collina was named FIFA’s ‘Best Referee of the Year” six consecutive times and is widely considered to be the best football referee of all time.

In June 2002, the Italian reffed the World Cup final between Brazil and Germany –– a game Brazil won 2-0.

Mukansanga’s is not the only female referee who has been given the chance to officiate in men’s football of late.

Rebecca Welch will take charge of Birmingham City’s match against Plymouth Argyle at St Andrews this weekend.


This will be the first time a woman has reffed a men’s FA Cup third-round tie.

Last year, Welch also became the first woman to ref the EFL when she officiated Harrogate’s 2-0 defeat to Port Vale in League Two.

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