After failing the Safa national fitness test to become a referee many times, Fortunate Ngobeni has finally earned her badge and become a national referee.
The 29-year-old was born and bred in the Dusty streets of Mandlakazi Village under N’wamitwa Traditional Authority outside Tzaneen, Limpopo.
She is determined to have a good career as an official despite the role being dominated by males.
“Female referees are still being treated differently from their male counterparts. We encounter many challenges when we officiate at men’s games as we are sometimes undermined and intimidated but that has taught me to be brave and stand my ground,” she said.
Her love for football started at an early age when she played with the boys on the dusty streets of Mandlakazi Village.
She first joined a boys team then moved to the Sisters FC which was founded by Monica Mathonsi – an icon in Limpopo who has spent her career developing football for women.
Fortunate was selected to be part of the Limpopo provincial team but the next year could not continue due to her age.
“Monica encouraged me to join a referee’s programme in the region and I was invited to officiate at farm sports. That is how the Safa Mopani district noticed me and they invited me for regional tests,” Fortunate said.
“I failed the national tests many times. There are fitness tests and knowledge tests and thank God I eventually made it.”
The referee who once officiated on dusty rural soccer pitches is now living her dream in the national Hollywood Bets Super League and ABC Motsepe League.
As the women’s game grows in Africa, more and more opportunities will come the way of referee Fortunate Ngobeni on the continent.