“Where does India hire their referees from? Are they even qualified given that they commit schoolboy errors in almost every game?” are some of the questions raised on almost a daily basis. One of the reasons highlighted is the fact that India only has six referees in the FIFA panel, who have the right to officiate international matches.
On Thursday evening in Goa, the Indian Super League (ISL) match between FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC was marred by atrocious refereeing. Ahmed Jahouh should have been sent-off in the first half, the penalty awarded was questionable and the second goal for Goa was offside by a mile.
Interestingly, referee Venkatesh Ramachandran is among the elite six referees in India alongside Ramaswamy Srikrishna, who was the fourth official.
For those wondering whether the All India Football Federation (AIFF) hasn’t done enough to train the referees, they couldn’t be more wrong. Take Venkatesh’s case for that matter. He was the only Indian in the penal of 11 referees selected by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as part of their ‘Project Future Asia 2012’ which wishes to groom the football officials from Asia to prepare them for competitions such as the World Cup.
In 2015, Venkatesh refereed a match between Wolves and Stoke City in the English Youth League (Under-18 and Under-21).
“This was a great learning experience for me. I also received excellent advice from Steve Dunn, one of the full-time PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) Senior Referee Coaches.
“He pointed out aspects of my refereeing which I should work on such as positioning, use of the whistle and managing players.”
So we aren’t speaking of Venkatesh as being India’s best. He is among the best in the largest continent. The Tamil Nadu native is among the youngest referees in India, who also holds a degree in chemical engineering and played football at the University level.
Last year, Venkatesh was handpicked for a special referees programme organized by UEFA for 10 days. Ganesan Maniam, a FIFA referee’s fitness instructor, heaped praise on Venkatesh as he has the ‘quality to be in the top bracket in Asia.’
The point is that if Venkatesh is among the best India have, certainly coaches and team owners in the ISL or the I-League need to lower the expectations and hope that someday luck favours them.
Time to take ‘living on a prayer’ in a literal sense.