Sixth Man is the unsung hero, the one cheering from the bench and delivering quality minutes when needed. In this weekly series, BuhayBasket puts the spotlight on the men and women who contribute to the game in their own way, away from the limelight.The life of a referee is tiring, tricky, and tough. If you’re a referee like Arman Cidro, it can also be fun.
Arman Cidro was jobless. He had just lost his job as an audio guy, and needed to find work. Tagging along with a friend, he found himself running up and down a basketball court–huffing and puffing, blowing a whistle every now and then, and doing things with his arms. Arman Cidro found himself a new career.
Being a referee, in whatever sport, is a tough and thankless job. “Good call, ref!” is oftentimes coated with sarcasm. It has the same appeal as traffic enforcers, who only get noticed if they make monumental mistakes. Or if they’re of the dancing kind.
Being a referee in the amateur ranks can be twice as tough.
“Matindi din lalo na kapag inter-barangay. Kasi ang mga coach, kung hindi barangay captain, mga kagawad,” Cidro tells BuhayBasket.
Cidro, the accidental referee, developed his officiating skills under the Basketball Association of the Philippines in his early years, before being assigned as a municipal referee in Bacoor, Cavite.
“Mula ng matuto ako mag-referee, sabi ko lagi, ang makita ko, itatawag ko,” he says.
His simple rule of “I call it as I see it” was tested during a championship game in one of the leagues he was officiating in. One of the teams, which coincidentally was also the liga organizer, wanted Cidro to call the game in their favor. The offer: gas money for his motorcycle.
“Sabi ko, kapag umaalis ako ng bahay, puno lagi ang gasolina ng motor ko,” Cidro says.
That team lost, and Cidro kept his soul intact.
“Para hindi masira ang pagre-referee ko, ganun lang ang paniniwala ko. Lagi kong dala ang dapat kong dalhin,” he says.
Cidro keeps a busy schedule these days as an amateur ref. He has weekly gigs officiating games for under-17 leagues, inter-village leagues, and Manny Pacquiao’s league in Parañaque (“Pangkaraniwang liga lang, malalaki lang katawan nila!”).
“Maraming masasayang bahagi sa pagre-referee. Kapag natatapos ang liga ng maayos, kahit sinong referee, masaya,” he says.
Once in a while, he also gets calls to officiate pick-up games for 33-year-olds embracing the joys–and aches–of titohood.
When the clock starts running, Cidro wears his whistle around his neck, as if awarding himself with a medal for the years of giving his life to a sport that gave him his life back. Maybe he puts it on like an amulet–an anting-anting to protect him from a corrupt world; to ward off evil forces that use gas money as bribe.
But maybe it doesn’t always have to be deep. Perhaps it just has to make you smile–something Arman Cidro does quite a lot nowadays.
“Wala akong hangad mag-PBA. Dito nalang sa amateur, maligaya na ako.”