Since South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) was founded in 1996, the league has fielded only male referees until 2015, when Akhona Makalima made history as the first woman to officiate a men's professional football match in the country.
Achieving this feat in a male-dominated sport wasn’t easy for Makalima. About seven years ago, she took advantage of an initiative created to get more women involved in football, and she eventually earned her first refereeing certificate.
From there, she’s simply kept soaring and shattering glass ceilings. She went on to become the first South African woman to pass FIFA's fitness test for certifying referees, scaling through a series of trials most men fail.
When she eventually came on to officiate her first professional match in 2015, Makalima proved naysayers wrong by doing an incredible job. Since then she has officiated over a hundred matches in PSL, Sasol Women's League and Africa Women Cup of Nations.
The next tournament Makalima wants to officiate at is the World Cup. While that is yet to happen, she started Inter-Refs in 2016. Through the initiative, she teaches girls about the laws of football and how they can make a livelihood through the sport.