Three female referees created history Saturday as Guinea and Zambia moved closer to the African Nations Championship (CHAN) quarter-finals, Tanzania clawed back into contention and Namibia were eliminated.
Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse and her assistants, Malawian Bernadettar Kwimbira and Nigerian Mimisen Iyorhe, became the first women to control a match at a senior CAF male tournament.
The breakthrough came two years after female referees handled matches at the African under-23 and under-17 Cup of Nations tournaments.
Former professional basketball player Tafesse gave a flawless performance as Tanzania edged Namibia 1-0 in Cameroon city Limbe to remain third in Group D, one point behind leaders Guinea and Zambia.
Earlier, Zambia scored three minutes from time to snatch a 1-1 draw with Guinea in a lively match between the two teams most likely to reach the quarter-finals of a tournament reserved for home-based players.
Tafesse exuded confidence in every decision she made, was extremely fit and tolerated no foul play as she yellow-carded three Tanzanians within 10 minutes during the second half.
African male footballers often dispute decisions against them, but most accepted without hesitation the rulings of Tafesse at the Stade Omnisport in the southwestern coastal resort.
“Lidya really enjoyed herself tonight and was a wonderful advertisement for female referees,” a CAF official, who requested anonymity as he is not an official spokesperson, told AFP.
CAF referees manager Eddy Maillet from the Seychelles was overjoyed as the trio created history eight days into the sixth edition of the Nations Championship.
“The CHAN is the second most senior national team competition in the continent after the Africa Cup of Nations,” he said.
“It is a wonderful platform for Lidya, Bernadettar and Mimisen to prove what they are capable of. They competed with male referees for places at this tournament and now they have made history.”
Both goals in the top-of-the-table clash between Guinea and Zambia came from substitutes introduced at the start of the second half.
Victor Kantabadouno latched on to a deflected shot and fired past goalkeeper Allan Chibwe on 58 minutes to give Guinea a lead they retained until Spencer Sautu nodded in a deep cross.
The draw added to the pressure on Tanzania and Namibia, who had lost their opening matches, as defeat for either side would end hopes of making the knockout phase.
Farid Mussa proved the 65th-minute match-winner for Tanzania, hammering a loose ball into the net after Namibia goalkeeper Kamaijanda Ndisoro feebly parried a cross into his path.