It’s unprecedented. Out of the 105 referees for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, six women are chosen. And the Rwandan Salima Mukansanga becomes the first African woman to hold such a position.

This is a first in the history of the FIFA World Cup and a first for the African continent.

The FIFA Referees Commission has appointed six women in its contingent among the 105 referees to lead the next Men’s World Cup in Qatar (November 21 to December 18, 2022).

Among them, a Rwandan: Salima Mukansanga. The 33-year-old was selected as the main referee along with the French Stéphanie Frappart and the Japanese Yoshimi Yamashita. It is therefore a new highlight for this 30-year-old who has already been a pioneer, last January, during the African Cup of Nations (men’s), in Cameroon.

If the Federation has chosen her with five other women, it is because they have all been performing high-flying performances for several years”.

A journey that began since 2008

Salima Mukansanga has been officiating on the pitch since 2008. That year, her 20th birthday, she obtained her refereeing certificate while studying at Gitwe University to become a nurse and midwife.

However, nothing predestines her to a career as referee. As a child, she had the ambition to become a professional basketball player. But for lack of adequate structure and coach to accompany her on this path in Africa, she finally changed path and chose the football to which her father initiated her.

“This is how I ended up refereeing, which I have never regretted,” she told the Rwandan newspaper New Times in 2019.

International referee for ten years, she really began her international career as a referee in 2012. The rise is rapid, she has been playing major matches since then.

In 2014, her first match as central referee opposed Zambia and Tanzania, in the African Women’s Championship.

In 2016, she was one of the 47 referees chosen for the African Women’s Cup of Nations, where she refereed the final between Cameroon, hosts, and Nigeria.

In 2018, she still stands out and becomes the only one to represent Africa for the Women’s Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay. Then the following year, it was the French grounds that welcomed her with two other Africans for the Women’s World Cup. She refereed the Sweden-Thailand match there.

Finally last year, she further expanded her CV by holding one of the whistles of the women’s football tournament at the 2020 Summer Olympics “A great achievement, an honor and a history”.

Salima Mukansanga a humble woman

The ambitious and discreet Rwandan has therefore reached a new level this year, by appearing in the list of two prestigious men’s competitions.

However, she keeps her head on her shoulders and remains humble. A few months ago, when she saw her name on the list of referees designated for the African Cup of Nations, she admitted that at first she thought it was a mistake”. She saw this selection as a great success, “an honor and a story”. And to add, on behalf of the women, “We can show that we can referee a men’s match at a high level… and succeed.

As for the World Cup in Qatar, she did not forbid herself to dream of it at the start of the year. Her determination paid off.

The dream becomes reality. And even if the competition has not yet passed, it is already a success for the thirty-year-old, an activist for more feminine refereeing, who had told, L’Équipe at the start of the year that her pride is being able to move mentalities and serve as an example to thousands of young women on the continent.