Rwanda At World Cup – Mukansanga’s Date With Destiny

Rwandan referee Salma Mukansanga will be the first African woman to call a men’s FIFA World Cup game, when defending champions France take on Australia in Group D opener, slated for Tuesday, November 22, at Al Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, in Qatar.

Mukansanga and several other women colleagues at the tournament will be held to the same performance standards as their male colleagues.

The other two female center refs of the tournament are Japanese Yamashita Yoshimi and France’s Stephanie Frappart.

For Mukansanga, being selected as part of the group of 36 who will be dishing out the cards and visiting the pitch-side monitors at the major tournament, perhaps marks her biggest achievement at 34 years of age.

In 2021, she become the first woman to officiate at the AFCON tournament.

Both competitions add on a rather lucrative career that has seen her officiate Olympic games and the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The France-Australia kick off will be at 21:00′.

Mukansanga will be the fourth official for the fixture, alongside South Africa’s Victor Gomes, the center referee, assisted by fellow countrymen Zakhele Siwela and Lesothian Souru Phatsoane.

According to FIFA, selecting a refereeing team for a major tournament comes with just as many trials and tribulations as choosing a squad’s 26 best players, and there are several criteria that the selection must meet.

In a process that began three years ago, over 50 refereeing trios were analyzed, before selecting the final 36, and although a 16-person board selects the best officials there are several geographical considerations taken on board.

Who is Mukansanga?

Born in Rusizi District, Western Province, Mukansanga was passionate about sports since childhood. She first tried playing basketball, but due to the difficulty associated with access to facilities, turned focus to football.

She officiated in the men’s second division league and women’s championship for 10 years before being promoted to the men’s premier league in 2018. Since then, she has never looked back, as she has achieved milestone after milestone. She became the first Rwandan female referee to officiate at any FIFA World Cup event during the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.

In 2019, she was selected by FIFA among match officials who would handle the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Now, in 2022, she is officiating at the World Cup.