Kenyan female referee Mary Njoroge keeps the ball rolling

Sunday July 09 2023

FiFa assistant referee Mary Njoroge work-out in training at Kenyatta University Football ground in Kenya on July 4 2023. She will officiate in Fifa Women World Cup in Australia this year. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NMG


Kenyan referee Mary Njoroge will add another feather to her cap when she officiates at the 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup that will take place in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20.

On Tuesday, Njoroge 38, was flagged off for the assignment by the Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Linda Gellard, at Kenyatta University. Njoroge was also the first Kenyan female assistant referee to officiate in the 2019 Fifa Women's Women's World Cup in France.

Read: South Africa to bid to host for 2027 Women's World Cup

"I am so excited for the assignment. It has been four years of intense preparation and I'm glad that the time has now come to do what I love most. I was confirmed last year in November that I will officiate in the World Cup. I have never been to Australia and I am ready for the task. I look forward to the new experience, meeting new people and also learning from them," said Njoroge.

Gallard lauded Njoroge for shining in a male-dominated field.

"What an ambassador she is for Kenya. She is impressive, independent, strong and an inspiration to young women and even us. It shows that sports is for everybody and it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from," said Gallard.


"We are very excited to host the tournament. We can't wait to show the world what Australia has. It is the first time it (Women's World Cup) is happening in the southern hemisphere. I am confident that Australia might bring it home.''

Njoroge was also an assistant referee to Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda at the 2018 Fifa U-20 Women's World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Read: Kenya, Rwanda referees on duty in Afcon

According to Njoroge's trainer Edward Lumbugu, her hard work, discipline and focus has pushed her to the top of the game.

“We have worked together for the last eight years. This is her second World Cup and this is what success looks like. We have done enough preparation. I know she will make history and also make us proud in Australia,” said Lumbugu.

Njoroge will join 106 other referees including Mukansanga. Out of that number, 33 are centre referees, 55 assistant referees and 19 video match Officials.

She is expected to leave the country on Friday after completing a referees training as an instructor in Arusha this week.

Three female referees made history in Qatar last year when they officiated at the 2022 men's World Cup for the first time.

Stephanie Frappart (France), Yamashita Yoshimi (Japan) and Mukansanga were among the 36 referees that were selected to officiate in the tournament.

Mukansanga, 34, is a listed international referee for Fifa since 2012 and was the first African woman to officiate in the World Cup.

She is best remembered for giving out six yellow cards in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations match between Zimbabwe and Guinea.

Njoroge's love for football was inspired by her female peers who played for Mathare Youth Sports Association.

"I never loved football when I was growing up. One day I was challenged by someone to take a refereeing course. I was not positive about it because I felt that referees are biased. Eventually I took up the challenge and it has not been easy. It took me a lot of time to be in the topflight," she said.