14 August 2018 – Rising South African female referee, Akhona Makalima will be jetting off to the United States of America next month as the only South African official to take part in the annual Global Sport Mentorship Programme earmarked to take place at the University of Tennesse between 22 September and 31 October.

The Global Sport Mentorship Programme was launched in 2012 with the aim of empowering underserved populations through sport-based mentorships where the selected participants are taught how to cultivate leadership and business skills by top executives from global organisations such as Google, ESPN and the US Olympic Committee.

The five-week programme will see Makalima being the only South African amongst a total of 16 other illustrious women from different parts of the world taking part in the course. Makalima will be accompanied by three other women from Africa in Diana Mutakafimbo from Zambia as well as Tega Onajaife and Christiana Nnorom from Nigeria.

The 30-year-old Makalima who hails from Engculu Villange in Ngqamakhwe, Eastern Cape, kick-started her football career as a midfielder in the Sasol League, playing for Thunderbirds Ladies where she was popularly known as “Zidane”.

After hanging up her boots, Makalima took up the whistle and has since went on to officiate high profile matches in the Sasol League, SAB LeagueABC Motsepe League, NFD and PSL.

Makalima also gets regular call ups to officiate in CAF competitions. Her last appointment was a crucial second leg African Women’s Cup of Nations qualifier between Uganda and Kenya earlier this year.

The young SAFA referee said that she was excited about the trip to the US and that she hopes to inspire more young women to take various positions in football.

“My goal is to come back home with invaluable experience and knowledge to share with my sisters and the country at large. I want to use this opportunity to change lives of African girls through sports and this is what particularly excites me about this Global Sport Mentorship Program,” she said.

SAFA Referees chair, Natasha Tsichlas said she was excited about Makalima’s trip and hopes that it will inspire other women to venture into various opportunities within football.

“This is a great achievement for the officials as well as the South African Football Association (SAFA). We take pride in seeing more of our referees, coaches and instructors representing South Africa and rubbing shoulders with the best from around the world. Such invitations bear testament to the hard work being put in by the Association to increase and widen the pool of referees, coaches, players and administrators,” said Tsichlas.