Six years after first discovering rugby as a scrum-half at Yeumbeul Rugby Club, Senegalese teenager Bineta Sene’s dreams of officiating on the top stage could soon become a reality.
The 17-year-old has made a meteoric rise through the refereeing ranks since she first took up the whistle four years ago, taking charge of senior men’s and women’s games in both 15s and sevens in her homeland as well as others abroad while still a high school student.
At the tender age of 16 she conducted herself brilliantly as referee for the Senegal Men’s 15s Championship, making it clear from the first whistle who was in charge. It opened doors for her to referee in the Ivory Coast, Mauritius and then, as an assistant referee and fourth official at the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens Championship in Tunisia, the regional qualifying tournament for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco.
On the eve of that tournament in Tunisia, Rugby Africa held its first international women's referee workshop with Sene joined by seven others from five countries in Sarah Harimamonjy (Madagascar), Halima Ben Charrada, Nesrine Faydi, Racha Ben Jomaa and Meniar Ben Amor (all Tunisia), Soudah Jamila Adiru (Uganda) and Sanae Atiiya (Morocco).
An educator from the Fédération Française de Rugby conducted the workshop with women's referee equipment donated, the women having previously only had access to men's kit and sizes too large for them.
Sene, pictured second from the right with others at the workshop, is now hungry for more top-level experience.
“I would like a long and brilliant career as a referee for Senegal Rugby, Africa and on the world stage. My dream would be to participate as referee during the World Series and San Francisco would be a wonderful achievement … who knows?” she said.
Sene has had to overcome gender stereotypes to get to where she is today while her studies and devotion to training make for a crowded timetable.
“Morally my family supports me, even if at the beginning, to play rugby for a girl seemed inappropriate, but my grandmother who raised me after my father’s passing three years ago, understands me, as does my mother,” she explained.
“Now that my career prospects are widening, my friends support me, my classmates encourage me, and my school director had made me an example for others – all thanks to my sporting career and despite my young age.
“It's not easy to combine studies with refereeing, which requires physical preparation, to participate in training courses every Saturday, and to find the time to study for my classes. But I am passionate, and I want to achieve all the requirements of the high-level referee. I will achieve this by continuing to work more.”
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