A blog on social / public issues and cultural life in Catalonia, Spain and wider Europe.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
"The Spanish female referee proving rugby is not just a man’s game"
"Alhambra Nievas is blazing a trail for women in the sport, becoming the first woman to be the main referee in an international men’s rugby test match.
The first woman to be the main referee in an international men’s rugby test match, taking charge of the Women’s Rugby Sevens Final at the 2016 Rio Olympics, being crowned World Rugby referee later that year… Spaniard Alhambra Nievas is taking a traditionally male-dominated game by storm.
The award-winning rugby referee from Granada became the first woman to officiate in a men’s international fixture last November, marking the latest accomplishment on her record-breaking CV.
My mom gave me my name out of nostalgia – and because she’s passionate about Granada and the Alhambra
In a testament to her name – which her mother gave to her out of love for Granada’s Alhambra Palace, established during Spain’s Moorish dynasty – Nievas heralds a new dynasty for women, not only in the niche, close-knit refereeing world of rugby, but also in sport itself.
“My mom gave me my name out of nostalgia – and because she’s passionate about Granada and the Alhambra. I sometimes feel as if it weighs a responsibility upon me, or a type of personality. It’s special and beautiful – I like it.”
The 34-year-old’s story is illuminating – even more so in a country that once witnessed Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem – who briefly played for the national under-21s team – state that being a rugby player in Spain is like being a bullfighter in Japan.
The latter might still be a rarity, but Nievas has seen the wind of change blowing strongly in her country, where the 11-man, two-footed game is worshiped by many.
“My grandad watches a lot of soccer, he loves soccer,” she explains. “The first time he watched a rugby match, when I was refereeing on TV, he was shocked. He said to me, ‘Wow…the players didn’t give you any stick – just respect! You looked like you had everything under control!’ "