A judo referee from Gabon made history by officiating in Europe ©Getty Images

African judo referee Jean-Claude Djimbi officiated at the Junior European Championships in Prague as part of efforts to bring the continents closer together.

The Gabon official is the first person not from a European Judo Union (EJU) country to take charge on the mat at one of its events.

It comes after EJU President László Toth pledged to "broaden the communication and engagement beyond our own continent" after his election in June.

"It was a very spontaneous decision," said Toth. 

"I was together with the refereeing team following Oberwart [the European Open] and we discussed the development and cooperation with other continents and as it happened, Jean-Claude was one of the referees we wanted to invite. 

"He has been in Europe for a long time and it just made sense to have him with us and so with [head referee director] Alexandr Jatskevitch we made the decision.

"We want to show that Europe is open for everybody, and I am very glad he accepted the invitation.

"We want to make an agreement with the International Judo Federation Refereeing Commission so that we can have this exchange with other continents and start to show our goodwill."

There are hopes to improve judo ties between Europe and Africa ©Getty Images
There are hopes to improve judo ties between Europe and Africa ©Getty Images

Djimbi represented the African Judo Union. 

"I am very happy to be the first non-European to referee in the European Championships," he said.

"It's a new experience and the President opened the door for all the other non-European referees, with this we are writing history.

"It has been said that judo is different from other sports and once again the President of the EJU shows that we have different values from the others. 

"I am very happy to be the chosen one to pave the way for future referees. 

"This experience has been a double success for me and it's a pleasure to work with the European referees and I hope that others can also have this experience and come to work here."