RIYADH: For most teens, picking a sport to play in school relies on passion and love for a particular game; for others, choosing is a tough decision. For Lamya Al-Nahdi, opting to play basketball was not something she knew she wanted, as she had played a few different sports, but basketball resonated with her the most.
“I have been playing basketball since I was 13 years old; it is one of the unique sports that relies on speed, intelligence and teamwork. Those three elements combined really got my attention in this beautiful sport,” Al-Nahdi said.
“Basketball is not only about being healthy and sporty and all of that, it gives you so many values when it comes to teamwork, when it comes to the decision-making phase in the court, it is so much more than just a sport,” she said.
After more than ten years of devotion to the sport, Al-Nahdi has been accredited as the first Saudi international referee in the history of basketball in the Kingdom, having passed the test for becoming an international basketball referee set by the international basketball federation FIBA.
FIBA also accredited three other Saudi international basketball referees: Ahmed Hassan Al-Khamis, Abdullah Marzouq Al-Hujaili and Razen Ahmed Al-Awfi. The accreditation of the three Saudi referees follows them successfully passing the FIBA theoretical and practical exams.
“I had to go through a lot of preparation and training in basketball in the field, and also with the legislation and laws,” Al-Nahdi said.
Al-Nahdi said that becoming the first Saudi international basketball referee was both an honor and a huge responsibility.
“I am not only representing myself but also representing a beautiful sport that I grew up playing for more than ten years, so it represents the love and passion for that sport,” she said.
“And it also represents my country, religion and lots of values that I took along with me.”
While playing basketball, Al-Nahdi graduated from Dar Al-Hekma University with a human resources management degree. After graduating, Al-Nahdi worked in human resources for five years before joining her family business as a business development manager of Blooming, a female clothing brand founded by Saudi women.
Al-Nahdi being accredited as the first Saudi International referee in basketball follows the efforts made by the Saudi Sport Federation to empower Saudi women in the sport sector, particularly Saudi female referees, and to support Saudi women locally and internationally.
“Now is the time for anything, particularly in the Saudi sports industry, with the support system we have,” Al-Nahdi said.
“I am loving the focus on females playing sports, specifically basketball,” she said. “I do believe it is the number one sport when it comes to female sport, gaining much attention among Saudi females compared to other sports.”
Encouraging women to take up sport and providing job opportunities in several sports fields, including football and basketball, has allowed Saudi women to excel in professional and recreational sports.
“In my early years of playing basketball, we actually used to do it not secretly, but no one knew about us back then, compared to the attention, support and the number of basketball coaches available to train Saudi women,” Al-Nahdi said.
“Now is the time. The support structure is there, all you need to do is to believe in yourself and work hard toward your goal.”
Al-Nahdi said that believing in yourself was the first and most important step in achieving anything, the second was surrounding yourself with supportive people to help you along the way.
Her elevation as the first Saudi international referee for basketball has been welcomed enthusiastically.
The Saudi Embassy in the US tweeted: “The @FIBA has approved Lamia Fawzi Al-Nahdi as the first Saudi international referee in the history of Saudi basketball. This is the result of the efforts of the @sbfksa to empower Saudi female referees and support them locally and internationally.”
Saudi Arabia’s first female international referee for football was appointed by the FIFA in January this year, when Anoud Al-Asmari was awarded the international badge, less than a year after the Kingdom’s national women’s team made their debut.