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Breaking Barriers: Disabled referee aspires to rewrite PSL history

Up-and-coming referee Rivingo Maluleke aspires to rewrite history as he strives to become the first official with a disability to officiate a match in the PSL.

Maluleke hails from Giyani in Limpopo and has been officiating in the lower division of SA football at SAFA LFA leagues since 2012.

The budding match official suffered burns on his head, ear, and left hand when he was left alone in a shack in 1997. He was aged four. That resulted in his left hand not functioning properly as he only relied on his right hand.

But this has not stopped the 31-year-old from pursuing his dream of becoming a top referee. Initially, Maluleke started as an onfield player but was forced to stop playing after continuous threats from local hospital authorities who were against the decision.

“They would tell me: ‘We will cut your hand if you continue to play’, so that would scare me, and I stopped and decided to take refereeing,” Maluleke told FARPost.

Disabled referee Rivoningo Maluleke aspires to make PSL history
Rivoningo Maluleke with retired referee Victor Hlungwani

He then took a decision to become a match official at the age of 21. But that journey has also not been easy. He used to be sidelined due to his condition. After years of fighting for his right, Maluleke has now become a SAFA ABC Motsepe League and Hollywoodbets Regional League referee.


“My biggest dream as a disabled person, I just want to see myself officiating at a higher level like the PSL [DStv Premiership] or Motsepe Foundation Championship. In our country, we don’t have disabled referees who are officiating at that level,” explained Maluleke.

“Let me put it bluntly: we don’t have disabled referees in football. So, I want to be the first referee as a disabled person to show them that we do have that potential. Sometimes, people think that because we are disabled, we are lazy and don’t want to do anything.

“I see myself as a normal person. I am not disabled. That’s why I want to see myself officiating at a higher level. So that people like me can also be inspired,” he says.

Disabled referee Rivoningo Maluleke aspires to make PSL history
Rivoningo Maluleke [FAR-LEFT] with other match officials


Maluleke has received some praise from local football fans for his performances at the SAFA local leagues. He is inspired by PSL referee Jelly Chavani, whom he also calls a friend.

“I am inspired by Jelly Chavani. He is my friend, and I am inspired by how he officiates and conducts himself around everyone. He is a very open person to each and everyone.”

RELATED STORY: Refereeing standards in shambles, SAFA must take action, says Victor Hlungwani

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