By Luis Cristovao
|English referee Kate Webb is one of three female referees making their international debut at the U16 European Championship Women.|
This group is highlighted by three women who opted for refereeing to keep working in the sport they love.
Mila Cavara from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a former professional player, English Kate Webb, a Sports teacher, and Portuguese Sonia Teixeira, the only woman to officiate in her country's top-flight, take their first steps in what is their common dream: being an international referee.
Cavara, after the end of a ten-year-long career spent in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Croatia, had the choice between coaching children and refereeing, and opted for the latter.
She entered officiating with high ambitions.
"I want to be at the Olympic Games, maybe in 2016," she told FIBAEurope.com.
"It was not an easy road to get here. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are only two female international referees (Jasmina Biscevic-Tokic is also present in Miskolc), and moreover I am still very young and I know I have to work twice as hard to be accepted. "
A similar situation is well-known to Sonia Teixeira, the only female referee in the Portuguese league.
It took her almost ten years to reach this level, but she was "setting milestones at each step of the journey."
OPENING DOORS FOR FEMALE REFEREES
"Before me, just one woman had refereed in the Portuguese league," Teixeira says.
"We have difficulties but we feel we are opening doors.
"More and more girls are preparing to get a licence and I know that seeing us officiating in their games turns it more natural for them to see it as an option."
As is the case with Teixeira, Kate Webb was invited to take the refereeing licence by a former referee.
"In Sheffield there was a former international referee and it was he who motivated me to return to something I had experienced when I was only 15 years old."
Followed by the experience as a player and coach, "to earn some extra money," Webb became a teacher.
"I was teaching but wanted to do something else. And I longed to referee, I must confess. "
Starting in a local league, she had the opportunity to learn a lot from former top players. In 2010, Webb made her refereeing debut in the British Basketball League.
"None of the players or coaches are women, then we must know how to earn their respect. They saw me coming and thought: who is this girl? But when you know what you're doing, you can achieve what you want. "
Now the important thing is to seize the opportunities offered by the people who helped.
"My country has invested in me, my colleagues, my friends, my family, they all gave so much for me to come here, I just want to do my best while I'm trying to get to know my level."
While Cavara regrets that Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have women's teams competing this summer, Teixeira also reveals that things are not easy in Portugal.
"To be a referee in Portugal you have to make an investment of time and work, and then feel that this work is not always recognized because the charge and pressure, especially at youth games, are very high."
So do not be surprised that many young referees give up along the way.
LEARNING THE INTERNATIONAL WAY
|Portuguese referee Sonia Teixeira feels that her and her colleagues' work might be an inspiration for girls to pursue an officiating career.|
But her will is to continue working to help more girls join officiating.
"I do not know if I personally am an example, but my experience reaching officiating in the league and international tournaments, yes, it's a reference I'd like more women would follow."
For all three, the first international tournament is primarily a learning experience.
Cavara feels that as a former player, she understands better what is happening on court.
"I know what these girls are feeling, I've been there as a player, so I know how to communicate with them and the coaches.
As women, we must be much stronger. Within the field, we have the same perception of things as men. But other people do not.
"Therefore we must strive to prove that we are at the same level."
"It's an extraordinary experience on a personal level, too," Teixeira confirms.
"Here are people from different countries, we have with us referees and instructors with vast experience and we want to enjoy every moment, trying to become better referees."
After a Preliminary Round without any problems, the most decisive games will bring new challenges to these three women who keep showing young female players that there is room for all of them in the future of basketball.