Tekcham Ranjita Devi and Ri-iolang Dhar are busting the myth that women cannot officiate in a men’s game as both are enjoying their refereeing assignments at the ongoing I-League qualifiers in Bengaluru. (More Football News)
Ranjita and Dhar, the former footballers from Manipur and Meghalaya respectively, have found a way to stay connected with the beautiful game through refereeing.
While both have officiated in international women matches, taking to the field in the men's game at the national level was an altogether different experience.
"The pace is very different from the women's game, so we have to be at the top of our fitness," Dhar, who is an assistant referee here, said.
"There are a lot more body challenges in the men's game, which means that tempers could also run high during a match. It's all up to us referees to maintain control of the situations in such cases," she said.
"The first match I did here was a little tricky for me, but it was a good learning experience. From the second match onwards, it all felt natural."
Ranjita herself takes a lot of tips from the Referee Assessors in terms of using their experience to help her on the pitch.
"Men's matches are quite different from a referee's point of view. Fitness is obviously a key factor, but we also take a lot of help from our senior referees or Referee Assessors," said Ranjita.
"My brother was an inspiration to me. He could not become a national level referee himself for different reasons, but he inspired me to become one," she said.
The 36-year-old Ranjita became a national referee in 2016 and joined the FIFA panel in 2018.
Dhar, 31, became a national referee in 2017 before becoming a FIFA panel referee the following year.
Dhar, who has represented her state at the national level, said becoming a referee was a way of staying connected with football.
"When I had stopped playing, I felt very disconnected from the game. I soon realised that I could not stay away from football for too long, so when the opportunity to become a referee came along, I decided to take it up," said Dhar.
With both Ranjita and Dhar leading the way, the future for the women referees looks bright in India.
"We want more women to come up and take Indian football forward together as referees," said Dhar.
Maria Rebello from Goa was the first woman referee to officiate in the I-League in 2014.