Lerato Nakumbana from Dongwe, Whittlesea, says she enjoys changing stereotypes about women in soccer.
Nakumbana is one of two female referees in the Chris Hani region and her colleague, Nandipha Menze, is currently in Mauritius refereeing the COSAFA women‘s U17 championship.
Her journey into refereeing came after the then ABSA Women’s League ended in 2010. She used to play in the Ladies Lukhanji FC. “I heard after the league folded that there was interest in having more females refereeing the game,” she said.
The 29-year-old is a level five accredited ref and currently referees in the Safa regional league, Sasol women’s league and the ABC Motsepe league.
She said she stopped refereeing in 2012 after she had her first child. “I had stopped all together until Bongani Mgese, who used to ref as well, approached me again and told me he wanted to see me on the pitch.”
She came back to the game in 2013 and has not looked back. She says apart from keeping fit, she enjoys the attention she solicits from curious spectators.
“People are always shocked to see I am a ref. They sometimes assume I am a lesbian. I enjoy breaking the stereotypes and proving that women do enjoy watching and playing soccer.”
Last month Nakumbana passed her second referee’s physical fitness test which allows her to continue refereeing matches in the ABC Motsepe league. “I was very happy when I passed my first fitness test, the same one as the guys took. I always struggled with my weight and when I finally passed I was ecstatic.”
Nakumbana says she has now set her sights on the international stage. “Although sometimes one feels as if things are slow this side I believe in God’s time everything will fall into place. I want to go into the PSL next, but my big gaol is to be an internationally-recognised referee.”