Sudanese athlete Munira Ramadan was the first female football referee in the Middle East and Africa, possibly the world. Making her way into the elusive, testosterone-fuelled world of sports, Ramadan took to the grass fields in 1975, whistle and yellow cards at the ready. The force spearheaded a way into the sports industry for the women who followed her.
Ramadan first entered the world of sports in 1970, soon making a name for both herself and her voluptuous up-do. After working at the Sudanese Ministry of Youth and Sports and the University of Khartoum for five years, she became a football referee in 1975. But even before establishing herself as the first female referee, she already had a number of firsts under her belt.
Ramadan was the first Sudanese woman to participate in swimming and discus throwing competitions, becoming the national champion of Sudan. She then went on to join the first national women’s basketball team, established by Huda Zein El Abdein, and received her basketball referee and coaching certifications at the same time.
Until 1980, the sports dynamo worked as a referee with men's teams, before leaving the profession to do her own thing. She opened the Fitness Institute of Khartoum under her own name, merging her love of sports with an untapped business suave. Four years later, Ramadan packed up and left her home country for Saudi Arabia, where she lives today with her husband, a Saudi businessman.
Ramadan's legacy wasn't for naught. Fast forward to today, three female referees from Sudan have been tapped by FIFA to run Tokyo 2020 Olympic primaries in the Chad vs. Algeria games, a feat that may not have been possible if not for Ramadan’s accomplishments a full 45 years earlier.
Thank you to Jannis Stürtz, aka Habibi Funk, who found Ramadan’s story in a stack of old Sudanese sports and culture magazines.