Burundi-born Cynthia Ishimwe has made history by being the first woman to referee a match at the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations. Ishimwe was one of the match officials at the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations Mozambique 2022 fixture between Senegal and Madagascar in Vilankulo on Monday afternoon, 24 October 2022.
The moment was a major milestone for the advancement of women match officials in Africa and comes at the back of another historic feat achieved earlier this year at the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations whereby Salima Mukansanga, who led the first ever team of women match officials at Africa’s flagship event.
The rise of Ishimwe is not incidental. For the last 18 months, CAF has accelerated its programmes in advancing women match officials in Africa.
CAF Head of Refereeing and Football Technology Noumandiez Doue said: “We are all proud of what Cynthia has achieved. It is a massive step in the right direction. This is a significant moment because it not only opens doors for other women match officials in Beach Soccer in Africa, it sets the trend globally.”
He added: “But this moment is not achieved by luck; there has been a lot of work that has been happening behind the scenes to prepare match officials in Africa. The workshops, the training camps and the mentorship programme has ensured that quality rises to the top. We are now seeing the positive trajectory and emergence of quality young referees and quality women match officials. This is thanks to the investment of CAF and also FIFA in improving the standards.”
Ishimwe said it was the support and the CAF programmes that have prepared her for such moment.
She said: “When I found out that I was going to officiate at the Beach Soccer AFCON, I couldn’t hide my excitement. It is a great privilege to be chosen for the finals of an Africa Cup of Nations and this adventure has been nothing else than enriching. Moreover, I am surrounded by experienced referees who do not hesitate to share their knowledge. They push me to improve myself and give the best of me. I feel totally integrated and the atmosphere is very good within the group.”