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From rural Rwanda to the world cup: A plunge into the Salima mindset

referee salima mukansanga zimbabwe and guinea 1 1

It was on the unforgettable day of May 19, 2022 that Mukansanga Salima was unannounced as one of the three female referees who will host the 2022 World Cup.

For this Rwandan woman born in Rusizi District, it was a “miracle from God” because she never imagined things would turn out the way they did. It was incomprehensible to her.

“Usually some things happen slowly, they take a long time, being a referee in the Africa men’s cup and then being at the World Cup still surprises me,” she says.

It was certainly unexpected. It was the first time that female referees were confirmed for the World Cup. This was an unforgettable moment in history, and it is an unforgettable moment in Mukansanga’s life.

Mukansanga was chosen alongside France’s Stéphanie Frappart and Japanese Yoshimi Yamashita.

A total of 36 referees, 69 assistant referees, and 24 decision-making technology based on video analysis, now known as VAR, have been called up.

Neuza Back, Karen Dias, and Kathryn Nesbitt are among the other female referees at the World Cup.

Mukansanga qualified for the World Cup after setting a record for assists in the CAN, where she also refereed Guinea’s match against Zimbabwe.

She claims her dreams have come true due to “luck” and “blessings,” but she also believes she is capable of incredible things.

“I am not a miracle, but I am a valuable person; I know I am capable; that is how I got here,” she explained. “I have the ability in me; I have to believe in myself; those who gave me this opportunity have faith in me; they know I deserve it.”

She believes that in order to achieve success, young people should strive for what they want and believe in.

“Our dreams are different,” she said, “but you work for them day and night, or they will not come true.”
“I have to work hard; I’m not here because of luck or because I’m Rwandan; I’m here because the time has come when hard work pays off; if you don’t give up, your work will be recognized,” she added.

She admitted that she is intimidated, but that in order to achieve one’s goals, one must believe in oneself. She emphasized the importance of letting go of self-doubt and having courage.

Mukansanga has served as the fourth referee in two games so far during the World Cup in Qatar.

She played in France’s victory over Australia (4-1) and Tunisia’s victory over France (1 -0).

Mukansanga believes that being a World Cup referee will open doors for other African female referees.

Mukansaga previously worked as a referee at the Africa Cup of Nations and also attended the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, last year.

Mukansanga, 34, believes that her and her teammates’ selection as World Cup referees will pave the way for more women.

“It’s really special because it’s never happened before,” she said. This means you will be the first to open doors for other women, particularly in Africa.”

She stated that when one carries a burden on their shoulders, they must do so diligently in order to help those who come after them.

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