|18 October 2010|
It's the big players that make big games memorable. In a world tournament gold medal final you are bound to have plenty of them around.
To have such a final running smoothly though, you need to throw top quality officials into the mix.
That's where European referees come into play and it looks like two Europeans in the officiating trio is becoming the standard at the world stage.
Italian Luigi Lamonica and Spaniard Juan Carlos Arteaga refereed the FIBA World Championship Men Final in Turkey last month.
|For Vicente Bulto and Elena Chernova refereeing the World Championship Women Final was a huge reward|
A few weeks later, Elena Chernova of Russia and Vicente Bultó of Spain continued the trend, by making up two thirds of the officiating trio in the FIBA World Championship for Women Final in the Czech Republic.
For Bultó, this proves that "we have in Europe very experienced referees and the support and training we receive from the FIBA Europe Referee Department is the key to get this kind of success".
Chernova agrees: "The FIBA Europe Referee Department makes a very good job of developing officiating and bringing it to a high level. We have a fantastic referee website which contains extensive multi-faceted teaching material.
"During the long summer tournaments (Youth European Championships and EuroBasket Men and Women) we have daily clinics with our observers. It gives us everything that we need for good officiating."
Fans understand what it means for an athlete to play in a final, but it's not really clear how important it is for a referee.
Chernova tries to put it into perspective: "For me, it was a big prize to receive the nomination to the World Championship to begin with but, being nominated to the final was like winning the gold medal! This was the happiest day in my refereeing career.
"For a referee to receive such nomination, it means that you did a good job before the tournament as well as during the tournament, it means that you are trusted by FIBA, it means that you are representing the referee body on the court at this moment, it means that you are the happiest person!"
Bultó also felt this was a reward: "It meant to achieve a dream, a great success after years of working, training and trying to improve my officiating level. It was a very important recognition for my work as a referee."
Another aspect that referees have in common with players is developing a sense of camaraderie. It seems that building a team spirit is equally important.
"My best memory of the final", says Bultó,"was the last minute of the game."
|Team spirit is what the two referees will keep as their best memory of the final|
"It was already decided (USA were up by 20 points) and all the fans stood up and applauded the teams. Our hug with my partners Fernando (Fernando Jorge Sampietro of Argentina, the third official) and Elena when the game finished, I will keep it in my memory all my life."
Chernova will treasure the same memory: "The fantastic atmosphere in the gym with more than 6,000 spectators, the energy of the basketball fans and players and finally the super climate inside our small team, the referee team. That is what is more valuable for me, our small team - Vicente, Fernando and me..."
Both Chernova and Bultó will keep this beautiful image in their minds forever, however they don't seem to be losing focus on what the future holds for them and European referees in general.
Constant progression seems to be their aim and they both believe that refereeing all year long at the highest level in both their domestic leagues and the European competitions is the key.
"Referees in Europe are lucky!" the Spanish official says.
"There are very strong national leagues and international competitions. Having the opportunity to referee high level games all the time helps referees to improve. The best basketball means the best players, coaches and referees."
For Chernova too, referees are a part of the constant progress of the game, just like the athletes.
"Every game, every tournament gives you unique experience, especially officiating strong competitions. Each team (tries to have) the best players, best players who make, create modern basketball. Basketball advances and at the same time you, as a referee, have to advance too. I think it's an infinite process."