30 Sep 2015
Recently the Africa Sevens tournament took place in Gauteng as a part of qualification for the Olympic Games. One of the five referees was from Spain.
She is Alhambra Nievas who lives in Málaga on Spain’s Costa del Sol and referees in Spain's División de Honor, the top men's league.
Malaga is in the romantic part of Spain, Andalucía which has wonderful cities like Seville, Granada, Córdoba, Cádiz, Gibraltar and Jerez where the sherry comes from. It is the first part of Spain conquered by the Moors in 711 and the last part that they surrenders in 1492. It is the Spain of dreams, warm, blue skies, the clicking of castanets, flamenco, the great Moorish buildings, the Sierra Nevada - the Spain through which many conquering feet have trod and much of western learning came in medicine, agriculture and philosophy, including algebra which is a Moorish word. So is Alhambra. In Granada, one of the most romantic cities in the world there is the Alhambra, part palace and part fortress with the gardens of the Generalife next door, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Our lady referees was born in Granada and so her name.
After high school she went to the University of Málaga to study IT, and there she met rugby, not the most popular sport in the land of futbol. For 10 years she played for the university club and for eight of those years she was chosen for Andalucía. For four years she played for Spain in the Women's Six Nations when Spanish women were more competitive than the men. She also played for Spain at Sevens. And all that time she developed a love of rugby.
On weekends when she did not have a match, she regularly refereed youth rugby and enjoyed it. She enjoyed it all the more when she reached the national panel, saying "I discovered another opportunity to have a rugby career doing something I really love and enjoy. I feel really privileged to be able to live my passion, rugby, our special and unique sport."
She started refereeing in 2006, at the age of 23, when she joined the referees of the Federación Andaluza de Rugby but has been refereeing more seriously since 2010 when she reached the National Panel. In 2012 she was promoted to the top level in Spain refereeing the top men's league. And then the world opened up for her - the Sevens World Cup in Moscow in 2012-13, World Rugby's Women's Sevens Panel in 2014, the Women's World Cup in France in 2015 and other Test matches, including the Six Nations.
Her recent trip to South Africa is her first and she says of it: "It has been a great week. Excellent hospitality and great job by the Team during the tournament. I'm really happy to have the opportunity to visit your country and hope I can be back soon."
The referees for the tournament were: Amy Perrett (Australia), who refereed the final between South Africa and Kenya, Aimee Barrett (South Africa), Alhambra Nievas (Spain), Victor Ojuku (Kenya) and Saudah Adira (Uganda). Paddy O'Brien cared for the referees.