The municipality of Pagsanjan, Laguna must have been proud of its native daughter as Janine Nicandro became the first-ever woman in PBA history to work as a referee in an official basketball game.
Nicandro, a Marketing graduate at the Laguna State Polytechnic University, marked her debut on Friday during the kick-off game for the PBA Governors Cup, featuring the Meralco Bolts and the Phoenix Fuel Masters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 23-year-old native of Pagsanjan, though admitted that she had butterflies in her stomach the first time she stepped on the historic court of the Big Dome.
“Iyung dito po talaga (in the PBA game), nakaka-tense at nakakakaba po, pero masaya din po,” Nicandro told PBA beat reporters, moments after Meralco chalked up the first win for the 3rd conference behind its 108-103 triumph against Phoenix.
While the referees have been much maligned by PBA fans, particularly netizens in social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, the pretty lady referee said she simply had to remind herself of the sagely advice given to her by former PBA referee Celso Rivera.
“Kasama po yun (bashing online from netizens). Sabi po sa amin mababatikos ka at maba-bash ka, pero handa na po kami,” she added.
Before being elevated to the 16-man PBA pool of referees, Nicandro trained for nearly 3 years in the D-League.
But she admitted that her experience as a varsity player at Laguna State helped her a great deal in understanding the game that Filipinos, in general, love with so much passion.
Meantime, Narvasa said the historic feat in the PBA annals was a welcome sight, saying female referees could also be at par with the traditionally all-male pool of referees.
“I think we have to empower the women. You have to give them respect,” said Narvasa.
“I think they also have done a lot of progress already and we have to recognize that because if the PBA can do that for men, we should be able to create a program for them (women referees) also,” he added.
Narvasa, who gave a passing mark on Nicandia’s officiating debut, also mentioned that the league’s board had his full backing.
“They actually encouraged it eh. And of course, as long as it (women referees) doesn’t hurt the game. And I told them don’t worry. I’ll take full responsibility. They were very supportive,” he added.
Historically, the first-ever woman referee to officiate in a Philippine basketball game was Sheila Petallo during the late 1990s in the Metropolitan Basketball Association. – By Richard Dy
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