Give That Ref An Oscar

17 November 2006

By Riath Al-Samarrai

By day, Oscar Lefwerth co-ordinates coaches and buses around Stockholm, but by night he gets screamed at by coaches and players not content with his decisions as a top-class referee.

It is a tough life, but not one he would change for the world.

“I love it,” he claims.

I love the game, I’ve always been involved in it and I don’t want to change that.
Oscar Lefwerth
“It’s exciting; you’re at the heart of everything that is going on and you feel involved.”

Critically it is the “feeling involved”, that matters most to Oscar, and it is why he loves the one job in sport most would walk over hot coals to avoid.

“I admit it is an unusual thing to do; I guess I get shouted at a lot, but I can’t step away from the game.”

Indeed, basketball has shaped much of Oscar’s life.

As a small forward, he won the Swedish National Championships with Folma in 1989 before being voted into the 1990 Nordic Countries All Star team and representing the Swedish national side at the 1995 European Championship.

Eventually, however, time and age eroded the nimbleness with which he used to dart around the court and he had to call it a day.

“I didn’t want to stop playing, but we all have to stop when we get too old.”

So, there he was, his love of basketball undiminished but his aching joints dragging him off court.

But Oscar never had any interest in quitting once he couldn’t land jump shots anymore - instead he wanted to put his years of experience on the court back into the game.

“I felt that I had something I could give the game, because the game still gives me a lot.”

And when the time came to repay the debt he was ready.

“Ever since I was 15 I’ve thought about becoming a referee.

“With the youth clubs we used to go to clinics where we would learn basic coaching and refereeing. I tried them both and people used to say ‘you are a good referee’ so I took it from there.

“It’s great, I started off refereeing smaller leagues while I was still playing and gradually worked my way up.”

By 1997 Oscar had become a National League referee and a further two years down the line he became a FIBA official.

A couple of months ago, he travelled to Brazil to officiate the FIBA’s World Championship for Women.

In total, he has refereed more than 15 international matches and called a further 2,000 games at lower levels.

“I can’t imagine not doing it,” he explains.

“I love the game, I’ve always been involved in it and I don’t want to change that.

“You meet great people, make friends all over the world and stay involved in a wonderful game.

“I’d advise other players to consider it. There’s no reason why you should break-off from the game just because you can’t play at the top level anymore.”


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