BY Nkosazana Ngwadla
In July 2020, Australia and New Zealand will co-host the ninth FIFA Women’s World Cup, and South Africa will be represented in more ways than one: South Africa women’s national soccer team, nicknamed Banyana Banyana (The Girls) has qualified to play, and our very own Akhona Makalima is among the 12 African referees who have been selected to officiate the games.
A total of 33 referees, 55 assistant referees, and 19 video match officials (VMOs) will form FIFA Team One. 32 nations will compete in the Women’s World Cup for the first time. Born as a 12-team tournament in 1991, it was expanded to include 16 countries in the USA in 1999 and 24 in Canada in 2015.
Akhona will be the only South African referee in New Zealand and Australia and given that she’s been a listed international referee for the international governing body FIFA since 2014, and that she officiates for the FIFA, PSL, SAFA, and SASOL Women’s League, it comes as no surprise that she’s been trusted with a tournament of this magnitude.
Akhona was born in March 1988, and was raised by her stepfather, Mbuyisa Dalasile, and mother, Vuyokazi. Although she grew up herding sheep in a rural part of the Eastern Cape under her grandfather, Robert Makalima, Akhona was always passionate about sports.
After playing football for a while, Akhona was introduced to the world of officiating football games and blew her first whistle in August 2011 at the Chris Hani memorial tournament in Eziphunzana in East London after some training.
A few years later, she is a testament to how far passion, hard work, and dedication can take you! And in her own words, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work in smart ways.”