GABORONE, BotswanaWe sat down for a chat on Mother’s Day with Naledi Chabe, one of Botswana’s female referees, to celebrate her on Women’s month of Rugby
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a 32 year old Physical Education teacher at Baitlotli JSS (Ramotswa), I come from Moletemane village in Central District.
How and when did you get involved in rugby?
I was recruited by a former senior school mate during our University days in 2006 to the UB Rhinos club specifically for my speed.
Tell us about your time as a rugby player.
In 2007 I started playing for BDF Cheetahs rugby club until 2014 where I ended my rugby journey as a player, that is when I decided to take a break from playing to venture in other responsibilities.
During my time as a player I loved the rivalry between my team (Cheetahs) and UB Rhinos. It was always a tough competition between the two and I swear you wouldn’t want to miss the two teams playing.
I played fly half which is the most challenging position in rugby and I refer to it as being the “general” of the game. I loved being in control and deciding where play should go. I always had scores to settle, in a good way though.
Talk to us about playing for the National team.
I am enjoying every moment of being here and every game is an experience with its own challenges
I started playing for the national team in 2008 to 2014. My debut match was in the year 2008 in Uganda during the World Cup qualifiers and then the Africa 7’s tournament.
It was and always is a pleasure to represent the country, although at times I felt the pressure that the whole nation was expecting more from me. There were teams that I never wanted to loose against and if it ever happened I would literally cry. Winning had always been a part of me.
I had played against big ladies and I was so tiny, but I would give them a run for their money hence my former coach Shaun Lees gave me the name “star, my star” which is still trending by now.
Playing had always been the best for me and I had planned to represent my country until my late 40s,(she laughs).
My body structure had never been a limit, but rather I always used it to my advantage and the side stepping. Oh boooy, I so want to go back (wink), I miss that part when having a ball in hand.
My coach Lee would shout “star,re buswa ke wena”. I had always put my country first in everything.
Having played for the National team at the Africa Women’s 7s and Olympic Qualifiers, what advice would you give to the players who will be playing on the 26th and 27th May 2018?
Passion and respect should be their values. I know they will play against big teams but that should be a motivation on its own to perform better.
They should focus and put in a good fight. Giving up should never be an option to them.This is their time to shine like a star,they shouldn’t give anybody a chance to take that away from them.
They have one of the best coaches in the country (Mr Masinki,whom I have always looked up to) so they should listen and practice according to his instructions.
They should also consult us senior players whenever they need advice . I won’t mind having a one-on-one with whoever is interested.
How did you get into officiating and what is your most memorable moment?
Mr Zilwele Khumalo (Zee) introduced me to refereeing touch/tag rugby in 2009 at schools level when I was still at university. In 2012 Mr Alleck Maposa introduced me to contact game where he shadowed me in the first game.
Because my interest was more into playing I did not take refereeing very serious then until last year 2017. The two gentlemen had always persuaded me into officiating and quit playing because of the injuries sustained.
I am now set. I enjoy refereeing than I ever thought I would, I am still in control of the game in the field (LOL) so it’s goodbye to playing. My most memorable moment is having been invited to referee at the Dairiboard Rugby Festival in Zimbabwe (biggest school rugby festival in the world) and as my first 15s game to referee in.
How is the Dairiboard Rugby Festival going especially now that you have refereed on the main field?
I am enjoying every moment of being here and every game is an experience with its own challenges. I get a lot of feedback from “CMOs”(Coach of Match Officials) and other experienced match officials from different countries.
The day I were told my game would be on Jubilee (main field, Prince Edward School) I never slept at night, I had weird dreams that I would lose my whistle and at one moment my whistle would not blow (She laughs).
I woke up as early as 4am to look at my law book on areas of concern. It was a challenging game but I enjoyed and took control over it as per feedback from the CMOs. I feel privileged to be here.
Any last words to a young girl wanting to become an official?
Officiating is the best thing ever and nobody can take it away from you. It’s the most interesting part of the game, totally different from playing.
This story is published on behalf of Botswana Rugby Union (BRU).