Africa-Press – Rwanda. Earlier this week, Rwanda international referee Salma Mukansanga made history at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) when she became the first woman officiate a match at the men’s continental showpiece.
The 33-year-old was a fourth referee during the Group B opening match in which Guinea beat Malawi 1-0 on Tuesday, January 11, at Stade Omnisports de Bafoussam.
Mukansanga’s milestone was welcomed by her fellow local female referees, underlining that she has what it takes to show the world what she does best in Cameroon.
When Mukansanga appeared on the list of referees selected to handle the rescheduled AFCON 2021 finals, not any of her Rwandan colleagues could believe the news about her selection until the media started to report about it.
“We could not believe it until the media reported about it shortly after CAF released the official list of referees that would handle the Africa Cup of Nations,” female referee Regine Mukayiranga told Weekend Sport in an interview on Thursday.
Mukayiranga has been a referee for over the past decade but only became international in 2016. She is now one of six women referees in the Rwanda topflight league.
She hailed Mukansanga’s groundbreaking journey to establish herself among the best referees that Africa, and the world of football, can count on and believes she can light the path for fellow Rwandan female referees to follow in her footsteps.
“I have faith in her to deliver at the AFCON because she has what it takes to shine, then she can prove to Africa that Rwanda has a pool of fantastic female referees. We hope to see more opportunities open for female referees to handle international competitions because we are capable,” she said.
“We are happy and proud of what she is achieving because she is at the same time raising the Rwandan flag high in Cameroon and showcasing what women can do in this beautiful game. There is a chance that her performance will open doors for us to be shortlisted for future competitions,” she added.
The level Mukansanga is achieving is already inspiring her fellow female referees to follow her example, as pointed out by senior female referee Sandrine Murangwa Usenga.
Murangwa, who earned her first refereeing license in 2009, has closely followed Mukansanga’s meteoric rise to becoming an international football referee.
From officiating the CAF Women Champions League and FIFA Women’s World Cup to the Africa Women Cup of Nations and Olympic Games, Mukansanga’s career has been a rollercoaster in Murangwa’s sights.
“I never doubted her abilities since the first time I saw her and I have confidence she will do great in Cameroon. She’s passionate and that helps her enjoy what she does,” Murangwa said.
“Landing the opportunity to officiate at the AFCON boosted our hopes that we can reach far in this career as well,” she added.