Gambian Mustapha Jawara has become the first migrant to be registered as an official football referee with the Italian Referees Association.
Jawara is the first migrant to become a referee with the Italian Referees Association (AIA), the organization said in a press release on Tuesday (December 14).
The 22-year-old Gambian presided over his first matches as a referee that day, in the youth sector.
He came to Italy at age 16 on a migrant boat and is currently being hosted at a migrant reception center in the town of Polla in Campania, southcentral Italy. Before crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, Jawara spent months in Libya, according to AIA. He told the organization that he came to Italy with the hope of becoming an electrician.
Jawara was reportedly first encouraged to become a referee by a local AIA associate, who he met by chance at a reception center. He participated in an online course for referees that he passed “brilliantly”, AIA said.
“I love sport in general, but particularly football,” Jawara told AIA. “I never had good feet, I’m not very good at playing football, so I figured I could be a good referee… I learned all the rules by heart so that one day my dream can come true: to referee the Africa Cup of nations final, emulating my fellow countryman Papa Gassama, and perhaps the World Cup. It would really be a dream because then I could hug my family and friends again, who could see me in my new role as referee.”