On court with globe-trotting SartyBy: SHEEFENI NIKODEMUS
SARTY Mona Nghixulifwa is on a basketball safari of sorts. She has played ball in Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
For the past nine months, the former Tomahawks captain has been officiating and playing in Vienna, Austria.
During her travels, she has rubbed shoulders with some leading personalities associated with the sport internationally.
And once she receives her licence to become a recognised International Basketball Federation (FIBA) referee, she is set to regularly mingle with basketball’s royalty.
Nghixulifwa has steadily impressed with her stellar refereeing displays. “Learning how to referee under pressure is very exciting and I have improved drastically. For me that could possibly be my biggest highlight,” she says.
“It is very challenging because the players here are well advanced and as a referee I need to keep up with their skill level. You need to be able to take insults and make an objective call without being influenced by the crowd, coach and players.” Her potential as an official was first spotted by Mpumelelo Hlabangani – the head coach for ‘s Unam ladies team - in 2008.
She was further encouraged to explore the match official avenue by local basketball gurus Charles Nyambe and Manuel Lito Carballo.
A FIBA zonal clinic in Johannesburg in October of 2011 was the launchpad for her refereeing career.
“After a successful clinic, I was awarded with a FIBA license for Zone 6. I am currently preparing for my international license that I might obtain to make me an international FIBA referee. “Olympics here I come! “There is plenty to learn though, but I will make it in due time.”
Fast forward to 2012 and requests for Nghixulifwa’s services are pouring in. The months of May and June have been particularly hectic for her.
“Currently I officiate from under 14 to the second division for both men and women. I have been approached to start referring in the 1st division as of next season which starts in September 2012,” she says.
“I refereed a final at the Pentecostal Games (Austria v Germany) among other games before the finals. I refereed the under 16 final game at the United World Youth Games (USA v Czech Republic).”
In between her busy schedule, the 29 year-old MBA Computer Information Systems student - who recently started working at UNIDO – manages to find pockets of respite to enjoy other passions.
“I am very active and I like to involve myself in physical activities such as, athletics and teaching children sports. I enjoy reading technical books and a bit of fiction, to broaden my mind on a variety of topics. I like to solve puzzle books and crosswords. I am an ambitious woman. I go out there and achieve goals that I am very passionate about.”
Nghixulifwa enjoys meeting people and making friends – it’s one of the perks of job. She has drawn both praise and inspiration from her new acquaintances.
“At the moment, I have only met the likes of Sveto Plesnik from Slovakia who has been a referee for over 40 years. He has refereed worldwide at world championships and also in a different league in the USA (NCAA),” Nghixulifwa said.
“I have met the FIBA sports director Lubomir Kotleba (also from Slovakia). He shared his FIBA story with me and was very impressed with my performance and encouraged me to continue because there is a high demand for female referees in basketball.
“I have also met players like Todd Brown, Jean Francois, David Hein and many more who are big names here in Austria and have been drafted from their countries to play in the first division in Austria.” While refereeing has thrust her in the spotlight, Nghixulifwa is no slouch with ball-in-hand either.
She began playing basketball aged 15 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
She returned to Namibia in 2006 and joined up with the Tomahawks club with whom she won three championships in row between 2008 and 2010.
She captained the side from 2009 and 2010.
Nghixulifwa has played national team basketball for Namibia while she also had a enjoyed playing time in Malawi in 2008.
Her days as a second tier player in Austria are numbered though.
“I have been approached by three teams to play in the first division of Austria,” which is testimony to her level of skill, she says.