The frequent occurrence of matches has helped refereeing to pick up in India. With a four-months course, anyone above 18 years of age can become a referee.
Jijumon was climbing his way up to become a star, playing for Bengaluru Football Club (BFC) and the Karnataka State Football team. He has always been passionate about sports, especially football. But things turned out a little differently for him after a severe injury.
The injury brought a full stop to his career as a footballer. After leaving the ground, he started working for a multinational company until he found another opportunity to be on the field again. This time as a referee.
“I knew about refereeing because I played the game. Even after the injury, I really wanted to be on the field,” he continued, “so when I got a chance to enter the domain of refereeing, I gladly took it.”Currently, he is working as a professional football referee under the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Balu, senior authority at the AIFF, said that the organization is running a lot of courses, training referees for the national games from the grassroot level. Out of the 200 registered professional referees under the Karnataka State Football Association, 100 referees are active now, he added.
Smitha, an 18-year-old referee from Bengaluru, has done a course in refereeing under the AIFF recently. “I’ve wanted to to be a professional referee since I was 16,” she continued, “and I first learned about it about two years ago. But the age to register for training is 18, so I had to wait.” She played football for five years before becoming a referee.
Though refereeing as a profession wasn’t popular in India, increased number of matches is changing the trend. Kuldeep Yadav, from Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, is a former Kabbadi referee. He explained that the transformation in professional refereeing is due to the increased number and improved quality of Kabbadi matches.Many youngsters are looking forward to becoming referees, he added.
Jijumon is satisfied and aims to get better with his skills. However, taking up refereeing is not easy because of the limited exposure given to the profession. “Surely more and more needs to be done so that people can take refereeing,” Jijumon said.
“If there is more support from schools and colleges where they come forward to spend on providing better facilities, then it will be really helpful for this profession,” Yadav added.
However, refereeing in tennis is a different story. Refereeing in tennis in India does not require any qualification. “Mostly former players end up as referees,” Shubham Gajraj, a Rajasthan State level tennis player, said.