Mozambican football back in action with the debut of all-women referee trio

Mozambique's national professional football championship, known as Moçambola, returned to action on 16 January after being suspended for 10 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The opening match, between the teams ENH Vilankulo and Ferroviário de Nacala, which ended with Vilankulo's victory, had a novelty: for the first time in the championship, the refereeing trio was composed entirely of women.

The local sports newspaper Lance recounted the three women referees’ stories:

Esta equipa de arbitragem será dirigido por Ema Paulo Novo, contando com Roda Mondlane (1º assistente) e Olinda Augusto (2º Assistente), enquanto que Mário Tembe será o quarto árbitro.

Ema Paulo Novo tem se destacado no futebol moçambicano, sendo que a árbitra internacional foi das poucas que esteve em actividade no ano passado tendo arbitrado jogos da Taça COSAFA em femininos, decorrida em Port Elizabeth na África do Sul.

This refereeing team will be led by Ema Paulo Novo, with Roda Mondlane (1st assistant) and Olinda Augusto (2nd assistant), while Mário Tembe will be the fourth referee.

Ema Paulo Novo has been prominent in Mozambican football, and the international referee was one of the few who was active last year having refereed matches of the COSAFA Women's Cup, held in Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

Moçambola matches will take place without a crowd until further notice, with the aim of preventing transmission of COVID-19. Mozambique has so far recorded a total of 29,396 cases and 271 deaths.

Some supporters lament the situation, such as Maria Mufume, who spoke to DW Africa in Maputo:

É triste para todo o mundo, porque não haverá adeptos e só estarão lá eles a jogarem, não terão pessoas para dar moral.

It’s sad for everybody, because there will be no fans and there’ll only be those playing, there’ll be no people to cheer.

But football players themselves recognize the importance of measures to contain the spread of the virus, as Augusto Panguane, vice-president of the high-level competition in the Mozambican Football League, said:

Naturalmente, deve existir em todos os campos a lavagem das mãos e tanques de água. Isto vai nos obrigar a criar condições para que o futebol não seja um problema sanitário.

Of course, hand washing and water basins must be available at all pitches. This will oblige us to create the conditions to ensure that football is not a health problem.

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