Ranjita Devi Tekcham and assistant referee Ri-iolang Dhar are former footballers in their respective states, Manipur and Meghalaya, respectively.
The female officials have busted the myth that women cannot officiate in a men’s game with both enjoying their refereeing assignments in the ongoing I-League qualifiers.
While both Ranjita Devi and Ri-iolang Dhar have officiated in international women’s matches, taking to the field in the men’s game at the national level was an altogether different experience.
Assistant referee Ri-iolang Dhar said the main difference between the men’s and the women’s game is the pace. She said:
“The pace is very different to the women’s game, so we have to be at the top of our fitness. 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.”
The 31-year-old Ri-iolang Dhar became a national referee in 2017 before becoming a FIFA panel referee the following year. She said becoming a referee was a way of staying connected with football.
“When I stopped playing, I felt very disconnected from the game. I soon realized 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.”
Referee Assessors come to Ranjita Devi’s aid
Ranjita Devi takes a lot of tips from the Referee Assessors in terms of using their experience to help her on the pitch. She said:
“Men’s matches are quite different from the 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.”
The 36-year-old Ranjita Devi became a national referee in 2016 and joined the FIFA panel in 2018 and said she took inspiration from her brother, who loved the game and wanted to become a referee.
“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.”
With both Ranjita Devi and Ri-iolang Dhar leading the way, the future for women referees looks bright in India.