Women referees call shots at Commonwealth Games

Deccan Chronicle.  | Moses Kondety

Sports, In Other News

The fairer sex certainly rocked at the Games with their increasing presence in every sphere of activity. Women putting their feet down and erring, imposing men in place was such a sight.(Photo: PTI)

HYDERABAD: Women punched big time at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. They won most golds — 146, two more than men; made waves in the pool and were in absolute charge of play, controlling most of the action as referees. The Queen’s Games had to have women on top. They sure were on song, and simply lived up British rockstar Mick Jagger’s superhit — She’s The Boss. The fairer sex certainly rocked at the Games with their increasing presence in every sphere of activity.  Women putting their feet down and erring, imposing men in place was such a sight. For example the Super Heavyweight boxing final between the towering Delicious Orie of England and India’s Sagar Ahlawat was strictly supervised by a puny Paola Falorni, referee for the big bout. And one could only admire when Marcia Chiasson used her referee’s whistle to telling effect as George Ramm and Lowe Bingham wrestled for bronze in the men’s 65kg bout. Women were definitely in control with the wrestling competition officiated by 15 female and six male referees, making it the first time in wrestling history that over 70 per cent of referees were women at a major Games. That was thanks in large part to the United World Wrestling’s (UWW) gender equality strategic plan which comes after the International Olympic Committee’s announcement last year to achieve gender parity for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. “We are committed to advancing wrestling in the right direction and promoting topics such as diversity, achieving gender parity, equal opportunities and access to education in all areas of our sport,” UWW president Nenad Lalovic had said. Pullela Gopichand, Badminton Association of India vice-president, concurred with the view. “Gender equality is something to achieve in sport, especially in the officiating, playing or coaching and support staff segments. I think there’s been a conscious push from the government also to ensure there is some kind of parity in gender at various events,” he said. “I have seen some really good quality women referees across the board. From the visual perspective too women referees present a neat picture. It feels very good to see women referees acting tough and handling the rough and unruly guys in a football match... it provides a power equation that is very different,” the renowned badminton coach added. India did have its women referee representation at the Birmingham CWG, in Akshata Shete-Jadhav, who was judge at the rhythmic gymnastics event. “Rhythmic gymnastics is a women oriented sport. In this field we do have a few male judges but it’s mostly a femaledominated sport,” explained the 30-year-old former gymnast who is a member of the Asian Gymnastics Union Technical Committee and also an official of the Gymnastics Federation of India. Women are kicking right ahead indeed. In another first, women referees will officiate matches at the men’s football World Cup in Qatar this year — three women referees and three women assistant referees will be part of the global showpiece event in November-December. International basketball federation (FIBA) too is getting more women referees into its fold. “As per a policy implemented in 2021, every national federation should have at least one female referee. Secondly, during the Basketball World Cup, 90 per cent of the referees are females. Also, at the Asian Championships, it is only referees from neutral countries from here and there that are male, otherwise they’re all females. In Europe it has become very popular now, for every game they have a mix of male and female referees officiating the matches,” informs FIBA technical delegate Norman Isaac, who is also chairman of the Basketball Federation of India’s Technical Commission. The 3x3 version of basketball was part of the programme at the recent Commonwealth Games. “FIBA also conducts a webinar for women officials every first Monday of the month where experiences and judging techniques are shared. There is a referees exam in the first week of October and FIBA has made it mandatory for India to send two representatives, out of which one should be a female. At the BFI too, we are going to have at least half-a-dozen to 10 referees in the first cycle, beginning next year,” Norman informs. He puts the women refs right up there. “Women are very strong mentally, and don’t get intimidated by players. I can tell you that some of them are stronger than men and can withstand any pressure. Besides, they are well-protected. FIBA also has a disciplinary panel which deals with any infringement on a woman referee,” Norman, also a former Fiba referee, explained. More power to the women.