Woman Crush Wednesday: Salima Mukansanga

Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda is one of three female officials selected by world soccer’s governing body Fifa to work the men’s World Cup championships in Qatar.

The 34-year-old Mukansanga, who made news in January when she became the first female referee at the men’s 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, has been included in the final list of 36, which also includes Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan and Stephanie Frappart of France.

Mukansanga made history at the Afcon competition when she was the first female official to oversee the championship match. Her maiden assignment was in the Group B match between Zimbabwe and Guinea, which the Warriors won 2-1 over the Syli Nationale at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.

Mukansanga, a Rwandan international football referee, was born in 1988.

According to Rwanda’s New Times, Mukansanga, who was born and brought up in Rusizi District, West Province, has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and midwifery from the University of Gitwe, which is situated in Ruhango District, Rwanda’s South Province.

Her goal was to play basketball at school, but she lacked several necessities, such as basketball facilities, thus it was never to be.

She shifted her attention to football, though, and in her last year at St. Vincent de Paul Musanze Secondary School, she officiated in a school tournament championship game, which is where her career as a football refereeing began.

Speaking with New Times in an interview in 2019, she said, “I liked basketball, and wanted to take it very seriously, but access to basketball facilities and coaches was hard. That’s how I ended up in refereeing, which I have also never regretted. I love it.”

Following a year of learning the fundamentals of refereeing and completing her education, Mukansanga began to work her way up the ladder by officiating in the men’s Second Division league and the women’s top-tier league.

She then gained notoriety four years later after being promoted to Caf licensed referee. It was at this point that the door opened and she began officiating in games all over Africa.

But this all occurred as she began serving as an assistant referee.

Her first time acting in the position was in the Caf African Women’s Championship match between Tanzania and Zambia in 2004, when she was given the duty of center referee.

“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 after officiating in the game.

The 2015 All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, were Mukansanga’s first official duty since being promoted to take over international matches following the Zambia vs. Tanzania match.

She oversaw the match between Nigeria and Tanzania to open the tournament, and she also oversaw the match between Ghana and Ivory Coast to determine the semifinal winner.

Following the event, she traveled back to Jinja, Uganda to oversee the 2015 Cecafa Women Challenge Cup.

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