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Women not to be Outdone by Men: An Untouchables Female Referee

The referee, a person of authority in a game, is required to observe everything and make perspicacious judgment in a flash; at the same time, calmness is required to respond to verbal provocations or insults. Alice Si Man Lei - Macao’s first female FIBA referee for the International Basketball Federation - has served as a referee for more than a decade and not only referees local games but many international and multi-sport events. She says that each game is a challenge that enables her to realise her full capability.

As a former player on the Macao National Women’s Basketball Team, Alice first encountered the role of referee in 1996, with the intention of having a better understanding of the rules of the game as well as the referee’s perspective on the enforcement of judgment for better event deployment. However, she soon became smitten by the job of referee and went on to pass the test for the FIBA referee’s licence, making her the first international female referee in Macao. Alice Lei recalls: “Passing my test provoked great feedback in Hong Kong and Singapore at the time, since these two regions mainly focused on the training of male referees back then”.

Macao’s first international female referee

Alice Lei’s enforcement capability as a referee has been confirmed not only by the Macao National Basketball Team, for whom she serves as an accompanying referee, but also by FIBA and FIBA Asia as she was given the opportunity to serve as a neutral referee in the Gulf Cup of Nations International Women’s Basketball Championship held in Doha, and the Latvian U20 Women’s Basketball League.

She also participated in the East Asian Games, Asian Indoor Games, Lusophony Games and other large-scale multi-sport events. As an experienced referee, Alice says: “There is limited opportunity for the Macao National Basketball Team to participate in overseas games, thus the chance of serving as an accompanying referee is relatively limited; most of the time I’m invited to serve as a neutral referee, and take it as a recognition that people are giving me”.

Self-improvement progress together with the times

Player and referee take the opposite sides in a game, with referees occasionally taking ‘flak’ and being verbally attacked by players who fail to control their emotions. Alice Lei experienced something similar last year; the bad-mannered player was subjected to a suspension for the game. Alice admits: “There are many people in the world with all kind of personalities. As long as we’re confident in ourselves, with continuous self-improvement, when we have the ability then we don’t have to worry about not being agreed with”.

Alice Lei believes that conflicts between players and referee rarely occur in areas with a high level of literacy or knowledge, since players and coaches are familiar with the rules of the game, and are able to address the issue rationally. Alice also reminds herself that progress over time is very important, and only deepens the understanding of the rules of game, thus reducing the chance of errors.

An exercise for EQ to understand right from wrong

Alice Lei rarely argued with the referee when she was a player, as she realised long ago that losing her temper would not change the penalty; since becoming a referee, she has an even better understanding of such situations.

She says: “This job is actually an exercise for EQ, since it requires subjective judgment and objective practice, to ensure the smooth progress of the game. This is a perfect lesson to teach me how to define right from wrong in my daily life: as a referee, of course, we seek to minimize errors. Each time we encounter a question, we should seek instant confirmation, thus I also review my performance after each game”.

Alice Lei actively cultivates young talent

Alice says: “The career of referee is much longer than that of a player”. Having said that, it still requires new blood, so that more young referees can be found in Macao in the future; the Macao-China Basketball Association will gradually launch more Referee Training Courses, Referee Assessor Training Camps, and other activities, to enable more young talent to participate in this industry, and contribute to the development of basketball. Alice, actively involved in many large-scale foreign events, is also happy to share her experiences with young referees.

Macao launches first assessment course

Macao-China Basketball Association has launched a number of Basketball Rules Training Courses in recent years, to encourage more young people to become referees, such as FIBA ASIA Clinic for National Referee Instructors last year, in order to reserve personnel for the promotion system. Alice says: “According to FIBA Asia, Macao is the first region in Asia to launch the Clinic for National Referee Instructors, attracting people from other regions, but we only accept local residents”.

Young referees lack initiative  

Local players sometimes concurrently serve as referees.

“When young players concurrently serve as referees,” she says, “they may not be objective enough when making a judgment. After all, these are two different roles. In being a referee one should not be over-concerned about the feelings of the players”.

She also thinks that most young referees in Macao generally lack initiative, miss many opportunities for enforcement, as well as the chance to accumulate experience.

“Some referees only act when they feel like it,” she says. “It may be due to a sense of competitiveness but the competition in Macao is not intense. On the contrary, foreign referees enjoy and cherish the opportunity to implement the enforcement of rules; also, even if you have passed the referee's licence examination and rarely enforce the rules then your standards will drop”.