Meet the Match
A South African Referee Creates Opportunities for Women
Akhona is the first certified female soccer referee in South Africa, where she officiates for FIFA, the Premier Soccer League, the SASOL Women’s League, and the South African Football Association (SAFA). Akhona uses her position as a women’s sports pioneer to encourage and influence young South African women to participate in sports at all levels.
Raised in a poor community in Eastern Cape, Akhona became known in her village at a young age for her speed. She was encouraged to run track and play soccer and other sports. A lack of sports programs and leagues, however, led her to pick up refereeing. By the age of 23, Akhona was traveling the country refereeing matches. Eventually, she became FIFA-accredited, the only female referee to pass the association’s fitness test and referee in South Africa’s top professional soccer league. Akhona will officiate at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana, and is hopeful of one day refereeing at the World Cup.
In Akhona’s home village and many other communities across South Africa, low-income women suffer from a range of problems, such as obesity and disease caused by inactivity, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and lack of access to education. Akhona believes sports can alleviate or prevent these issues. In 2016, she launched a program, Inter-Refs, where she teaches girls from 7 years old and above about the Laws of the Game of soccer with the hope of creating a generation of women to follow in her footsteps.
By participating in the GSMP, Akhona has expanded on her current work developing female soccer referees, as well as establishing her own women’s sports academy. Focused on empowerment and mentorship, she is offering opportunities for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage in and pursue soccer, rugby, netball and other sports.
Akhona earned a national diploma in human resource management from King Hintsa FET College. Outside of refereeing, she hosts the “Women’s Sports Buffet” program for Keith Ngesi Radio, serves as a nationwide motivational speaker, and dreams of one day opening her own smoothie bar.