As the FIFA World Cup 2022 gets underway, on November 20, Rwandan female referee Salma Radia Mukansanga will be making history as the first African woman to officiate at the showpiece. The 34-year-old first made international headlines when she became the first female central-referee at the African Cup of Nations in January this year, and she did not disappoint. She successfully handled the Guinea-Zimbabwe match. Though a number of women had previously officiated at the continental competition, they were only doing so in the capacity of assistant referees, not central. Months later, her story would only get better. FIFA announced that she was selected among the referees for the 2022 World Cup. 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. I liked basketball, and wanted to take it very seriously, but access to basketball infrastructure and coaches was hard. That’s how I ended up in refereeing, which I have never regretted. I love it,” she told The New Times during a previous interview. Her love for football refereeing started taking shape during her final year of high-school, at St Vincent de Paul Musanze, in 2006. She decided to go for a course in the profession and earned her first certificate in match officiating the following year. After almost a whole year of hard work and extensive learning, Mukansanga started to be assigned some (very few) matches in the men’s second division league and the women’s top tier in late 2008. 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. More assignments handled in her career Mukansanga’s first international tournament was the women’s football competition at the 2015 All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. She was in charge of the opening match between Nigeria and Tanzania, and the semi-final clash between Ghana and Ivory Coast. The same year, she was one of the celeb referees that handled the 2015 CECAFA Women Challenge Cup in Jinja, Uganda – which was won by Tanzania. In 2016, Mukansanga was among 47 referees that handled the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon. She was in charge of the tournament’s final match between the hosts and Nigeria, which ended 1-0 in favor of the Super Falcons of Nigeria. Mukansanga’s career hit a new high in 2021 when, to everyone’s surprise, she was named as the only African on the official list of referees that led the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay from November 13 to December 1. She oversaw three matches: the Group A match between the hosts and New Zealand, Group B’s match between Japan and Mexico, and one quarter-final tie between Canada and Germany. She was also the fourth official during the third place clash, which saw New Zealand beating Canada 2-1 to take the bronze medal. Thanks to her excellent performance in Uruguay, Mukansanga was chosen among Africa’s three referees to officiate at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Besides her sports profession, Mukansanga holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Gitwe in Nursing and Midwifery.