Two Africans make it as world’s top 30 referees


By Duncan Mlanjira

Two African FIFA international referees, Sidi Alioum from Cameroon and Bakery Papa Gassama from Gambia, have been recognised as among the world’s top rer

A report by, Sidi is occupying the 17th position  followed by Gassama on 21st.

Sidi Alioum from Cameroon

The 37-year-old Sidi has officiated close to 80 matches in the international scene and was one of the centre refs during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals that took place in Egypt.

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics, IFFHS equally awarded Slovenian referee, Damir Skomina as the world’s best referee. 

Bakery Papa Gassama from Gambia

He won the award with a little margin over German Felix Brych, the winner in 2017.

Damir Skomina was the referee of the UEFA champions league final between Liverpool and Tottenham. He is the 19th referee to win this Award since 1987.

The top 10 are Skomina, Brych, Bjorn Kuipens from Netherlands, Gianluca Rocchi from Italy, Cuneyl Cakir from Turkey, Nesta Pitana from Argentina, Antonio Maheu Lahore from Spain, Clement Turpin from France, Martin Atkinson from England, and Michael Oliver from England.

Kwimbira (left), Malawi’s top women ref

Malawi boasts of Bernadettar Kwimbira as its Elite FIFA assistant referee and became the country’s first woman referee to officiate men’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier between Libya and Tanzania played on November 19 in Tripoli.

She was among six first African Female Elite Referees appointed by Confederation of African Football (CAF) to officiate men’s CAF AFCON matches in November.

This comes after Kwimbira became overall best among the 33 referees, who attended a five-day Confederation of African Football (CAF) Elite ‘A’ Women Referees Course in Djibouti.

Damir Skomina

In Tripoli, she will be the 2nd assistants referee with her compatriots Ishmael Chizinga as centre ref; Clemence Kanduku as 1st assistant while Gift Chicco will be the 4th official.

Kwimbira, who handles high profile elite matches locally, says the future of fellow women referees in Africa depends on the six of them appointed for these qualifiers, saying if impressed then the doors shall open for others.

German Brych


She officiated more than 80 Super League games in Malawi and she is Malawi’s most decorated referee having officiated at two FIFA Women’s World Cups, five Women’s AFCONs, One Olympic Games match, One Youth Olympics and FIFA Women’s Under 20 World Cup among other high-profile assignments.

The CAF Elite course in Djibouti brought together top African female referees from 24 CAF member associations and Kwimbira was the only Malawian representative.

The best ever, Pierluigi Collina

Meanwhile, one of the world’s best known referee was Italian, Pierluigi Collina, who was named FIFA’s Best Referee of the Year six consecutive times and is widely considered to be the greatest football referee of all time.

Collina is still involved in football, as an unpaid consultant to the Italian Football Referees Association (AIA), as the Head of Referees for the Football Federation of Ukraine since 2010 and as a member of the UEFA Referees Committee.

Collina was born in Bologna and attended the University of Bologna, graduating with a degree in economics in 1984. 

During his teenage years, he played as a central defender for a local team, but was persuaded in 1977 to take a referee’s course, where it was discovered that he had a particular aptitude for the job. 

Within three years he was officiating at the highest level of regional matches, while also completing his compulsory military service. 

Former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn

In 1988, he progressed more rapidly than normal to the national third division, Serie C1 and Serie C2. After three seasons, he was promoted to officiating Serie B and Serie A matches.

In June 2002, Collina reached the pinnacle of his career, when he was chosen for the World Cup final, between Brazil and Germany. 

Prior to the game, Germany’s Oliver Kahn told the Irish Times: “Collina is a world-class referee, there’s no doubt about that, but he doesn’t bring luck, does he?” 

Kahn was referring to two previous high-profile matches that Collina had refereed which involved Kahn: the aforementioned 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, a 2–1 defeat for Bayern; and Germany’s 5–1 defeat against England in September 2001.

Kahn’s luck did not change in the final, and his team lost 2–0.

Collina also refereed the 2004 UEFA Cup Final between Valencia and Marseille. In February 2005, as he reached the mandatory retirement age, UEFA Euro 2004 was his last major international tournament. 

His last international match was Portugal-Slovakia, for a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Estádio da Luz in Lisbon.