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Afcon 2023: Moroccan referee to make Arab history in Nigeria-Guinea Bissau clash

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Moroccan international football referee Bouchra Karboubi is set to make history as the only female central referee at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), with the Moroccan having been appointed to officiate today’s Group A clash between Nigeria and Guinea Bissau.

Karboubi shattered Moroccan football’s gender barriers in 2020 by becoming the first woman to referee a match in Morocco’s top-tier men’s professional league.

The game will kick off today at 6 PM GMT+1 at the Félix Houphouët Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

Karboubi is among the seven Moroccan referees that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) appointed to officiate at the ongoing continental tournament in Cote d’Ivoire.

Alongside her, Morocco’s Jalal Jaid and Samir Kazzaz will also take charge as main referees. Meanwhile, Moroccans Mustapha Akerkad and Lahcen Azguaou will serve as assistant referees, whereas Redouane Jayed and Zakaria Brinzi will be VAR referees.

Born in 1988 in Taza, Karboubi is a trailblazing referee who has made significant strides in officiating both women’s and men’s matches at continental competitions.

Karboubi, who previously officiated Morocco’s Throne Cup final in 2022, made history in 2020 as the first female referee in Morocco’s top men’s football league, the Botola Pro 1.

In addition, the 36-year-old referee was appointed as the main referee for the group stage game between the US and Vietnam at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Growing up as the youngest of five siblings in Taza, Karboubi initially pursued her love for football as a player in the youth category. In 2001, an opportunity arose with the opening of a referee school for both men and women in her hometown.

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Despite facing negative reactions from her family, particularly her brothers, she decided to explore refereeing.

“I loved football, and I thought, why not? It allowed me to pursue my passion, learn the rules of the game, even if my brothers reacted negatively?” she recalled in a 2020 interview. “I lived in a city where it was considered shameful for a girl to wear shorts and join the field with men.”

Karboubi relocated to Meknes in 2007, where she became a national referee in the newly established Moroccan women’s football league.

Her family’s understanding and support were crucial in her pursuit, especially after her father intervened, directing her brothers to respect her choice. At 19, she started officiating in the first and second divisions of Moroccan women’s football. Nearly a decade later, in 2016, she achieved international referee status.

Karboubi reached new heights in 2018 when she officiated a match in the final stages of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations held in Ghana.

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