Bouchra Karboubi: Female Referee Makes Waves in Morocco’s Botola

Bouchra Karboubi, October 10, 2020. Photo via El Sport, photographer unknown

Rabat – Bouchra Karboubi made history this weekend by officiating a match in Botola Pro1, Morocco’s top-tier professional football league. 

The 32-year-old was the central referee of the 30th-round league game between Moghreb Tetouan and Olympique Club of Khouribga on October 10. 

Another eye-catching detail from the match was that one of Karboubi’s two assistant referees was also a woman. On social media, a number of Moroccan football fans celebrated the news and expressed hopes for more similar sights in the Moroccan league.

Fillefa, a Casablanca-based association working to promote women in football and “encourage girls’ passion” for the game, shared pictures from the Saturday match on Facebook. 

“First time in Morocco. A referring trio made up of 2 women and led by Bouchra Karboubi,” FilleFa wrote. “Big up to our referee who managed the game well and looked confident,” the group said of Karboubi’s performance.

While Fillefa’s celebration of Karboubi’s history-making weekend is warranted, she is actually the second female referee to officiate a Botola Pro game. Botola’s first female referee was Khadija Rzak, who also officiated a 30th-round league match between Maghreb of Fez and Mouloudia of Oujda in the 2003-2004 season. 

Bouchra Karboubi was appointed as an international referee in 2016. Two years later, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) selected her among the “Elite A” or first class category referees. The same year, she officiated a number of matches in the women’s finals of the African Cup of Nations.

According to reports from Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF), she is on the list of referees in contention to officiate games during the 2023 women’s African Cup of Nations.

The news comes as Morocco continues to assert its progress in the field of gender equality and women empowerment. 

Earlier this week, Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said gender equality is among King Mohammed VI’s “top priorities.” 

He explained that increasing social inclusiveness remains a major concern for his government, arguing that Morocco is committed to sustaining “favorable conditions” to promote women’s engagement and visibility in the public sphere.

For large swaths of women’s football fans, however, the sight of Bouchra Karboubi officiating a Botola game is just a small drop of inclusiveness in the vast ocean of patriarchal dominance. In recent months, there have been numerous reports of women claiming equal rights — both in terms of visibility and wages — in what is generally seen as a boys’ world. 

For many, the fact remains that while Kourbiba’s officiating of Saturday’s game was not exactly a revolutionary moment — there have been similar or even more boldly egalitarian occurrences in other football leagues around the world — it was a small but crucial first step in the right direction.

Read also: Chabab Mohammedia, Maghreb Fez Return to Morocco’s Top Football Division