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. More assignments 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.