Snehal storms male bastion

Lone women referee from India

Snehal storms male bastion

 She’s smart and knows how to get her stuff done. With a fox-40 tucked between her lips, she’s is the final authority on a basketball court. Maharashtra’s Snehal Bendke has done what no other woman from India has done before -- she is a successful international basketball referee.

Having started her career at a young age of 19, Bendke says she’s happy with the decision she made. “Even today, I am looking for an answer as to why I started that early. I didn’t plan it. But once I got into it, I clicked,” said Bendke who is one of the FIBA certified referees in the country.

Bendke, who led Maharashtra in many of the junior competitions, admitted that it’s her coach Sharad Bansode who pushed her into becoming an official.

“I was a player. I used to play for Maharashtra in age-group teams. Then I got to know that there are no women referees from Maharashtra. And when my coach encouraged me to give the State-level exam in 2005, the journey began,” said the 29-year-old.

Having earned the FIBA certificate in 2009, Bendke has been a regular figure at most of the Asian women basketball events. But her biggest break came in 2012 when the world governing body nominated her as one of the referees for the London Olympics.
“Initially I just couldn’t believe. I was home when a senior official called me to congratulate on being nominated. ‘Masti mat karo (don’t fool around)… This is not the time for it!’ That was my first reaction. But later on Facebook, when I saw a congratulatory message from FIBA Asia Director, I was sure about it,” recalled the Kolhapur-born Bendke.

At the London Games, Bendke’s hard work was rewarded with a semifinal game between champions USA and Australia. “It was great game. A learning experience for me too. Guys were more fast, more aggressive and physical. So even as an official we needed to be on our toes all the time,” she added.

Being a trend setter in many ways, Bendke later went on to become one of the two women referees to ever officiate at a men’s event in Asia. The Indian, along with China’s Ling Peng, was called up for the 2013 Asian Basketball Championships (ABC) in Philippines.

Though she has gone on to make India proud at the international stage with her consistent performances as a referee, she believes it’s difficult to lure future prospects into the profession as referring is not a viable option financially.


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