Johannesburg - In a fiery Group B clash between Guinea and Zimbabwe, it was Rwandan Salima Mukansanga who shone brightest as she became the first woman to take charge of an Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match in Yaounde, Cameroon, on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe surprised favourites Guinea as the Southern African nation triumphed 2-1. Guinea still progressed to the round of 16, while Zimbabwe finished bottom of the group.
Mukansanga’s strong handling of the match in the face of some over-enthusiastic players was commendable. Liverpool star Naby Keita was particularly loud on behalf of his Guinea teammates, but Mukansanga stood firm and entertained little in the way of protests from players who did not agree with her decisions.
In fact, Keita was yellow-carded after the 90th minute of the encounter which rules him out of Guinea’s round of 16 match next week, with their opponents still to be determined.
It was a big call from Mukansanga and no doubt some of Keita’s earlier objections to decisions could have played a part in the awarding of a card. Mukansanga can certainly be commended though, as she stood firm and showed she would not be intimidated by some of the big name stars on display.
🔥 Be passionate.— #ItsTimeItsNow (@CAFwomen) January 17, 2022
🔝 Become the first female to officiate a #TotalEnergiesAFCON match in an all-male team.
🔛 Inspire future generations.
🇷🇼 Salima Mukansanga, here to start a new era. ⚽️#MondayMotivation | #ItsTimeItsNow pic.twitter.com/aat9yxlCnf
Mukansanga was supposed to lead an all-women official list of assistant referees Carine Atemzabong of Cameroon) and Fatiha Jermoumi of Morocco as well as another Moroccan to fill the role of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Bouchra Karboubi.
However, when the match started Mukansanga was joined by two male assistant referees. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) did not say why the original list of assistant referees were not used.
Officiate the first ever #TotalEnergiesCAFWCL. ✅— #ItsTimeItsNow (@CAFwomen) December 23, 2021
Officiate in the #TotalEnergiesAFCON2021.⏳
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting 🇷🇼 Rwanda's and 🇲🇦 Morocco’s pride: Salima Mukansanga and Bouchra Karboubi! 👏#ItsTimeItsNow pic.twitter.com/QRyc9O7mKm
Before the match, Caf head of referees, Eddy Maillet said it was an important moment in African football. He added that it was due to Caf’s “clear commitment and investment to improve and advance the standard of refereeing in Africa.”
Maillet said: “We are super proud of Salima because she has had to work exceptionally hard to be where she is today. We know that for a woman, she has had to overcome serious obstacles to reach this level and she deserves a lot of credit.