By Bhongo Jacob
Coaches and club managers frown when they see their games will be officiated by a woman, sometimes even asking to see her credentials, while players often try to charm their way out of being booked.
But that does not intimidate the only Absa Premiership woman referee, Akhona Makalima.
The top flight referee, born in Engculu village in Ngqamakhwe, has had to prove herself in the middle of the park in the male dominated field.
She showed once again at the weekend during the Premier’s Cup clash between Chippa United and Kaizer Chiefs at Sisa Duskashe Stadium in Mdantsane, when she did not hesitate to red-card Sibusiso Khumalo for a professional foul, that she is no walkover.
“It was a beautiful day at Sisa Dukashe, with a massive turnout from soccer lovers. It is a great honour to work in front of your own people, though sometimes you can be shaken by a crowd,” she said.
“During the game I am only focusing on the 22 players and the fouls and misconduct. My duty is to enforce the law of the game and allow them to play fair.
“After the game I need to watch the match and be able to see what I did wrong and right and [see] points of improvement.”
Babes Wempempe, as the 28-year-old is affectionately known in football circles, has handled SAB regional League, ABC Motsepe League, PSL and Banyana Banyana games.
She hopes to one day officiate at a Fifa World Cup.
She told the Daily Dispatch that because she is a female in a male-dominated field, she has had to work twice as hard as her male counterparts.
“Being a lady referee comes with so many challenges. People do not have faith in you. Players take advantage, managers and coaches frown when they see that their games are blown by a lady. Sometimes they even want proof of my appointment,” she chuckled.
Makalima played softball and soccer and took part in athletics in school.
“I stopped playing soccer [because] there were not many activities for ladies’ soccer and no development.”