By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (January 19th 2022)
Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga was not the only female official to make history at AFCON today – at least she wasn’t supposed to have been. Cameroonian Carine Atemzabong and Moroccan Fatiha Jermoumi were listed to assist Mukasanga in a scheduled all-female team of officials, but Lahsen Azgaou and Oliver Kabene Safari assisted her instead.
However, Bouchra Karboubi also made history in the same match as Mukansanga by becoming the first woman to operate VAR at AFCON. She wasn’t called on to make a decision but a grey area could have tested both Karboubi and Mukansanga as a free-kick was taken rapidly before the referee could hand out a yellow card that the Zimbabwean defenders were waiting.
No goal was scored, or any other match-changing situation, so VAR could not be used, but if Guinea had scored, could VAR have been used? Mukasanga brandished six yellow cards during the match – one slightly After having the yellow card that she dropped returned to her Mukansanga cautioned Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper, Talbert Shumba, after 57 minutes.
There was some controversy though. Mukansanga did not keep up with play as well as is required especially at this level. But the major talking point in her handling of the match was with Guinea’s captain Naby Keita scored a magnificent goal to halve the deficit. However, he objected to time-wasting by Shumba, wanting a yellow card for Zimbabwe’s keeper, which would have seen the Warriors’ shot-stopper sent off for a second yellow card.
As the captain, Keita is entitled to talk to the referee and ask for the time to be added. He is not, however, entitled to employ unsporting conduct of demanding a caution or asking for one – that is the referee’s job – especially knowing that would see the keeper sent off. With all the talk of Fair Play recently, was that in keeping with the spirit of fair play?
If captains are allowed to question referees and call for cautions with impunity, why would any other player risk a caution? It’s a pity that Keita will miss Guinea’s next match, but let the referees officiate the matches – it’s what they are there for regardless of gender. And as for Fair Play and Sporting Conduct, what do they mean in practice if captains can try to get opponents sent off with impunity?