‘Everyone shouted at me’ – Benin’s Tempa Ndah reflects on her ‘hard’ refereeing career


The former Beninese referee officiated at several major tournaments and has spared her time to share her rough path to the top

Tempa Nadh admits she is still excited about her fantastic breakthrough in her refereeing career after officiating at many football competitions on the continent and the global stage. 

The 47-year-old, who hailed from the Benin Republic enjoyed an incredible journey in refereeing since officiating her first international match in 2003 before she decided to call time on her career in 2017.

During her 14-year stint, the Beninese international referee officiated at six Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, two Olympic Games and six Women’s World Cup tournaments, including an U20 event.
 
Besides serving as an assistant referee, her major career highlights were officiating the 2003 Africa Games football final and third-place tie between Germany and Japan at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

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And the 2007 Beninese Football Oscars award nominee, attributed her success to her determination while opening up on the rough path to achieving her dreams.

“I used to watch football on TV when I was a child. There was hardly any women’s football in Benin and I played with the boys when I was at school,” she told Fifa.com.

“It was really tough, though, and I soon gave up. And then, when I grew up, I saw that women were refereeing games.

“People didn’t think it was right and even my family refused to support me. It was really hard. In the end, the coach suggested to me that I referee the team’s matches in training.

“I didn’t know anything about the laws of the game, so I just did what I could. Everyone shouted at me. I was refereeing all on my own. There were no assistants.

“That’s when I really started to learn the laws of the game. When I was doing the course, I put into practice all the things I learned on the pitch and I trained with the male referees. 

“They were very happy to see a brave woman come and join them. You got stones thrown at you and people coming on to the pitch screaming and shouting and even getting physically violent.

“It was when I started training with Lions de l’Atacora, a local men’s team, that I really began to believe in my abilities. Physically, I could keep up with the men and the coach congratulated me on that.”

Tempa Ndah - Benin referee ps

Ndah finally caught the eye at the continental games at Nigeria 2003 after eight years and was rewarded with her maiden appearance on the global stage at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

The former professional hairdresser recounted her debut officiating at international level and the best moments during her active days: “It was absolutely amazing. I was very proud to be representing my country and Africa in front of the whole world. 

“I learned so much just by being around other match officials from all over the world. I have lots of great memories, but if I had to pick one out, it would have to be the match for third place between Germany and Japan at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (a 2-0 win for the Germans).”

Having hanged her whistle, the former referee turned instructor opened up on her biggest motivation during her career and efforts to develop the next generation of female referees in the Benin Republic.

“I retired in 2017 to become a referee instructor,” she continued. “I was still in shape but I wanted to make way for the youngsters, to give others the opportunity that I’d had and to devote my energies to the development of women’s and African refereeing.

“To see women making their way in the game. Women’s football took a while to get going in Africa and it hasn’t developed as quickly as elsewhere. 

“That’s why, in my eyes, there’s no better sight than a woman with a ball at her feet or a whistle in her mouth.  Women who play sport can only become even more intelligent and dynamic. 

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“It also helps them to break free, travel, discover things and make friends. Real change is happening here in Benin. The example I set has inspired lots of girls who have met with me and spoken to me. 

“I give training courses and we talk a lot. The best piece of advice I can give them is to not lose heart and to work hard towards their objectives.

“They also need to ignore people who think that women in Africa are only there to have children and cook.”



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