Akhona Makalima continues to be at the top of her game in more ways than one. The trailblazing South African referee will officiate at the upcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) that is set to take place from 13 January – 11 February 2024, in the Ivory Coast.
She will be part of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) team, a technology that isn’t currently used in football in South Africa. Makalima will be joined by four other female officials in Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga, Karboubi Bouchra from Morocco, Rivet Maria Pakuita Cinquela of Mauritius, and Zambian Diana Chikotesha.
Bouchra is set to be the only woman who will be a lead referee at the tournament, while Chikotesha will be an assistant referee as Mukansanga, and Cinquela will join Makalima in the VAR sphere.
The 35-year-old Makalima has enjoyed much success in her career where she has been part of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) since 2014 and has become a mainstay of women’s football as she also referees in the SASOL Women’s League as well as the Hollywoodbets League.
On the International stage, she has been part of Fifa for the last 10 years and is also part of CAF tournaments. A watershed moment in Makalima’s career was when she blew the whistle in the record-breaking Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
She is also a two-time winner at the gsport Awards, where she bagged the Imperial African Woman in Sport in 2022, she then walked away with the Style Star of the Year award at #gsport16.
In an interview with gsport’s senior writer Lonwabo Nkohla in 2023, Makalima highlighted that receiving recognition for her work is a refreshing experience and it also gives her the ability to encourage women and girls who also want to become referees.
“It’s humbling to see that people will celebrate us and will recognise us for the work that we do. It’s not all the time that officials are recognised, we are always on the other side of the table where we are being scrutinised. When people start celebrating and acknowledging us then you sort of realise how far you’ve come,” she said.
“Recognition tells me to keep going. There is so much resilience and mental toughness that is needed from us as match officials. Support gives you a bit of a push. It enables me and boosts me to also help young girls. I’m going to be a big sister to someone who wants to be where I am today.”
When it comes to being an all-rounder, ‘She-Ref’ as she affectionately known certainly has not been resting on the laurels as Makalima also graduated with a National Diploma in Human Resource Management, again showing just how well-rounded she is, on and off the field.
Photo caption: Akhona Makalima continues to be at the top of her game in more ways than one. The trailblazing referee will officiate at the upcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) that is set to take place from 13 January – 11 February 2024, in the Ivory Coast. Photo URL: SA Football Ref Akhona Makalima on Instagram