1012 GMT June 28, 2022
It was three minutes to the game, a boring, low-key game for everyone else but a life-changing one for me. A game of basketball between two high school teams in eastern Tehran, around sunset on a rainy autumn day.
I knew the court. I knew every inch of it. “You have been to this court a thousand times,” I told myself. “Take that small, tiny step, girl. Go get them.” I was stressed out, terrified, not knowing what to do. I was panicked because I felt I lacked the necessary expertise or maturity to do my new job. I was about to officiate the game, for the first time in my life, first of the many to come, hopefully.
“Am I in the right place? Am I good enough for this?” I had been asking myself these questions since early morning as self-doubt was about to get a hold of me. But it was a dream coming true. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity under any circumstances. I had always loved being the ultimate authority in the field. What’s not to like about authority, really?! The big change I was looking for seemed both close and elusive. It was just a matter of taking that small, tiny step.
“In life, the margin for error is so small – I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half a second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it,” said Al Pacino in ‘Any Given Sunday’.
It was three minutes to the game. I was supposed to take the whistle, go to the middle of the court, and start the game. I’d gotten cold feet. “Should I be here?” I made the final decision and blew the whistle. The game started. Not on its own. I started it. I, cautiously looking, quickly running, panting. Spectators, shouting, screaming, anticipating every move. My officiation partners, making eye-contact with each other, helping me to handle the benches, reviewing the rules. The game was under my control but I was over the moon, excited and anxious at once.
“Keep at it. Just focus on officiating correctly. That’s all, not a big deal. You are the god of this little court,” I kept reminding myself.
I have been to many games since then. And I am not only satisfied with who I have become, a registered referee for the International Basketball Federation, but also proud of that terrified but resolute Elham who on that rainy autumn day took that last, small step, not leaving me behind with a bag full of regret. A regret of not doing what I always dreamt of doing. A regret which, in the long run, would be even scarier than taking that step.
*Elham Zahabzadeh is a guest contributor at Iran Daily.