The role of gender is a popular topic of discussion in our domestic football and football media coverage, but often ignored when talking about referees.
This is likely the case because elite female referees are scarce at the local level. That trend could be set to change based on the evidence showed in the performance of a refereeing set made up of only women officiating in a men’s football match at the weekend.
It was history made on Saturday when Isatou Touray, an officer in The Gambia Immigration Department became the first women referee to officiate in a men’s Super Nawettan game in Brikama’s 1-0 defeat of Manjai Kunda in the opening game of the season at the Independence Stadium.
Touray, a FIFA referee who had officiated between powerhouses in Nigeria and South Africa in the Women’s World Cup qualifiers, was flawless in her performance which earned her a lot of praises from fans and the VIP section of the Stadium.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily Observer, Alhaji Adama Mbaye, the referees’ manager at The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) said refereeing in the country has moved to another level.
Adwa, as he is fondly called, and himself as an ex-referee, stressed that the game was not the first men’s game officiated by the same panel of women referees. She said Isatou Touray and her team had also officiated in some Nawettan games, noting that last season, the same panel refereed the final game of the men’s first division league match between Brikama United and The Gambia Ports Authority.
“This panel officiated big games in the continent as well; they officiated a women world cup qualifier between Nigeria and South Africa and in that game, I will give all of them a mark of 9 out of 10,” he affirmed.
“So if they can do that what of this game between Brikama and Manjai; we have to give them trial games here.”
As part of the Federation’s four-year national football development plan, the GFF intends to unearth more Bakary Papa Gassama by training 190 referees across the board by the end of 2017.
Isatou Touray and her panel of referees are among the many domestic referees that are winning hearts and minds on a daily basis as a result of the rigorous training they underwent both at home and abroad coupled with their own hard work and determination. She is about to undergo another training in Cameroon where she would participate in the CAF Elite A Refereeing Course.
Lamin Kabba Bajo, the GFF President said women referees officiating a men’s football match is a progress in Gambia football. “They have equal rights with men; if they are qualified, they can play the final [of the Super Nawettan competition],” Bajo affirmed.
Lamin Jarra, a teacher at Kabafita Junior Secondary School tends to defer. He might have had a narrow view of the whole situation when he said women referees should only remain in the women’s game.
“The game was brilliantly officiated,” Jarra confessed. “But all that I know is women referees are for women games, but not for men’s game.”
by Baboucarr Camara & Muhammed Lamin Drammeh