Almost a decade ago, the likes of Glenda Moleofhi and Hawa Maseko were some of the prominent female referees in Botswana, respected within the football circles.
Their presence in the game changed the thinking that refereeing is only meant for men. But since their retirement, things have changed.
While some whistlemen claimed that women were not interested in officiating, recent investigations have revealed otherwise.
“I like football so much and since I cannot play it, I thought it would be nice if I can go into officiating but I was scared when the men in charge of appointing referees asked for sexual favours from me. It became worse when they bad-mouthed each other on me. There was nothing I can do so I just decided to give up on my passion. My love for refereeing but I cannot give up integrity just because I want to be a referee,” said an aspiring female referee.
She pointed out that there are lots of aggrieved women out there who suffered the same predicament like hers.
“It is bad because whenever a beautiful woman comes wanting to pursue a career in refereeing, the male referees run after him. The bad thing is that even those in charge of referees are the ones who usually want to pounce on the females first,” said a male referee.
When approached for comment, Moleofhi said it is unfortunate some of the things they faced over a decade ago have not improved.
She said she managed to stay long in the game because she is a strong character.
“I can assure you that that there are potential female referees out there but such things chase them away. I feel that the association has to take action against perpetrators because it is unfair,” said Moleofhi.
Referees’ Commission chairman, Edwin Senai, said he is aware of the situation because he once addressed it in Gaborone.
“It is unfortunate such things are happening yet we want to see the number of women increasing in the game. I told male referees in the presence of some women that what they are doing is uncalled for. I want to make it clear that women do not want to come into refereeing because they’re desperate for love but because they have passion for the game. They need to be accorded the respect they deserve,” said Senai.
He pointed out that the situation is improving as they recently had female referees attending the Fifa Elite course.
He called on those women who are interested in officiating to come forward because they need them.
“We are going to do everything in our power to protect them. Our wish is to see the Women’s League being taken charge by females,” Senai added.
Botswana Premier League (BPL) chief executive officer, Bennett Mamelodi, said it will be unfortunate if the story is true.
He said that as the Premier League, they want referees to be taken care of by a certain calibre irrespective of their status.
“We’re at the mercy of the referees’ commission but it will be bad if the allegations are true,” he said.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Tebogo Sebego, has cautioned all those involved in such acts that they will be reprimanded once the matter is brought to their attention.
“If the referees’ commission can send us a formal report then that is when we can act. I’m not going to let rotten officials to run our game because at the end of the day we need the contribution of women. The saddening part is that women who suffer such things never bring this to our attention,” said Sebego.