Young Congolese woman makes FIFA referees' list

STORY: Rachel Zihindula knew from the moment she started refereeing that she wanted to take charge at the very highest level.

"I started the referee training during the 2015-2016 season, here in Goma. And now I'm an international referee."

In January, world soccer's governing body FIFA elevated her to the rank of international referee,

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which qualifies her to officiate at international level.

The 24-year-old comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern city of Goma,

a region that has been at war for almost 30 years.

Congo's national soccer league is also facing issues.

The Congolese Association Football Federation prematurely ended the top flight championship in April

due to clubs facing financial difficulties.

But that has not dimmed Zihindula's passion for the game.

"I know that in the east of the country there are many wars and that we women are sometimes victims. And for women who want to follow in our footsteps to join us in male-dominated careers, I encourage them a lot"

Zihindula started training as a referee in 2015

and quickly began handling provincial competitions, before moving up to the national soccer league.

She takes inspiration from France's Stephanie Frappart, the first female referee to officiate a men's Champions League game.

The young Congolese hopes to one day oversee Confederation of African Football tournaments or FIFA matches.

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