Mauritania's referee Mariem Chedad is one of the match officials at the Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations at home.
'I'm living a dream', the 25 years old referee, first woman from Mauritania to officiate in a CAF major event, told CAFOnline.com. 'I just hope that this will give more opportunities to women of my country to live their passion, play sport and contribute to our country development.'
Below is CAFOnline.com interview with Mariem Chedad.
CAFOnline.com : How do you see your nomination as a referee in the first CAF tournament to be hosted by Mauritania ?
Mariem Chedad: (Smiling) Well, at the beginning I though itw as a joke. I could not believe it. Officiating during a CAF competition which is taking place at home for the first time ! It is a great blessing. Afterwards I told myself I must be up to the task to comfort all my supporters and give the opportunity to other young Mauritanians to show interest in sport in general, and football and refereeing in particular.
How did you find your way especially with a sport more linked to men in your country ?
I was lucky to be born into a very open family. A Mauritanian father and a sports-keen Ukrainian mother who introduced me to sports very early on. Besides, my mother practices athletics and she is a marathoner, and thanks to her, I did the Marrakech (Morocco) marathon in 2016.
And how did you get into football ?
My mother pushed me to play sports, I practiced kickboxing, taekwondo and football as I played futsal in mixed teams at home in Nouadhibou. But it did not go far and I almost gave up, until referee AbdelAziz Bouh informed us of the arrival of a prospecting mission led by the former international referee Idrissa Sarr in 2016. From there I started and did not stop till now.
So it was the frustration of not being able to play football that drove you into refereeing?
The truth is I love order, and for everything to be always in place. And as I adore football, I found in refereeing the necessary suitable place for me.
How do you find your way in reputedly traditional society?
There have been criticisms, but since I have the blessing of my parents, there is no problem. Refereeing does not stop me from following our traditions, and we have to carry on despite criticism.
How are your studies going ?
I prepare a Masters degree of Logistics at a private university. I was lucky to have understandable managers who arrange my studies and exams. I conduct my studies and refereeing simultaneously, I officiate in Mauritanian Super League Divisions 1 and 2. It's going really well and the other referees are encouraging us a lot because we are just a few women.
How do you see being a woman referee in a men's AFCON ?
There is no problem, the rules are universal even if it goes faster in the men's game, but I am used to doing it in the local championship. It is true that in AFCON it goes faster and the stakes are huge, but I just focus on my part and it's going well.
What's your ultimate dream with refereeing ?
To go as far as possible, do all the big competitions and I would give myself the means to get there because in a way, I have become a model for my sisters. Mauritania will be done with its men and women and I am so proud to see my parents, especially my father, being happy with my presence in this competition. During my last match (Morocco-Ghana) he was present and I saw his smile from afar. And for nothing in the world, I do not want to change this pride that I have given to my family.