The AFCON 2023 tournament in Ivory Coast witnessed a groundbreaking moment as Moroccan referee, Bouchra Karboubi, took center stage, becoming the first female central referee at the tournament. She presided over the intense clash between Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau, which ultimately saw a victory for Jose Peseiro’s team, thanks to an own goal by Guinea-Bissau’s Opa Sangante.
Working alongside her were Jalal Jaid and Samir Kazzaz, both of Moroccan descent, who served as assistant referees on the sidelines at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny.
Bouchra Karboubi had previously shattered gender barriers in Moroccan football in 2020 when she became the first woman to referee a match in Morocco’s top-tier men’s professional league.
In the match, Karboubi issued three yellow cards, one for a foul committed by Frank Onyeka, and the other two for time-wasting, handed to Calvin Bassey and Stanley Nwabali. Her performance as an official was commendable, correctly disallowing two goals – one for offside and the other due to a foul in the build-up. Her communication with the Video Assistant referees and the players was exemplary.
Since the game, fans from both countries have applauded the Moroccan referee, who has set a significant precedent for other female African referees to aspire to. She is the sole Women’s center referee at this year’s AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire.
Karboubi’s journey began in Taza, where she grew up as the youngest of five siblings, initially pursuing her love for football as a player in the youth category. She follows in the footsteps of Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda, who made history as the first woman to referee at the African Cup of Nations in 2022, leading an all-female officiating team consisting of Fatiha Jermoumi and Carine Atemzabong. Notably, both Bouchra Karboubi and Salima Mukansanga also served as referees at the FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 2022.
Following her remarkable performance in yesterday’s game, the question arises: should we see more women officiating in African Football?
The Super Eagles vs. Guinea Bissau clash during the AFCON 2023 tournament marked a historic moment with the presence of three women officiating the game, led by Moroccan referee Bouchra Karboubi. Karboubi’s outstanding performance as the first female central referee at the tournament, along with her assistants Jalal Jaid and Samir Kazzaz, has not only broken gender barriers but also showcased the competence and professionalism of women in football officiating.
Karboubi’s journey from shattering gender norms in Moroccan football to her remarkable performance on the international stage serves as an inspiring example for aspiring female referees across Africa. Her correct decision-making, effective communication, and handling of the game have earned her well-deserved praise from fans of both nations.
With the success of referees like Bouchra Karboubi and Salima Mukansanga, who paved the way for women in African football officiating, the question of whether we should see more women referees in African Football becomes even more relevant. Their achievements underscore the need for greater inclusion and representation of women in all aspects of the sport, reinforcing the belief that talent knows no gender boundaries and that diversity in football officiating can only enhance the game’s overall quality and fairness.