Sudeshna Mukherjee became the first woman to take charge of a men's senior division game in the Calcutta Football League's (CFL) history as a match commissioner when she officiated the Mohun Bagan vs George Telegraph fixture at the Mohun Bagan ground on Sunday evening.
Daughter of Debajyoti Mukherjee, a former vice-president of Indian Football Association (IFA), Sudeshna admits that since childhood she was more interested in the administrative part of football as she has closely watched her father organise major football events for the IFA.
"When I was a school-goer I used to eavesdrop and listen to my father when he would hold meetings with his colleagues as they discussed the nitty-gritties of organising a football tournament," recounted Mukherjee to Goal.
She has been involved with women's football for a long time and had been the manager of the women's team that won the gold medal at the SAAF Championship in 2012, beating Nepal 3-1. She believes that her role as a co-ordinator during the 2016 SAAF Cup held in Siliguri, had helped her prepare for the match commissioner examination which she cleared in her second attempt.
"Mr. Ganguly (Utpal Ganguly, IFA Secretary) trusted me and sent me as a co-ordinator to the event. As I was directly involved in organising an international tournament, I could learn a lot. Working alongside Mr Anil Kamat and Sanjay (Kumar) of the AIFF (All India Football Federation) was a wonderful experience. I learnt the fundamentals of being a match commissioner during that stint," said Mukherjee.
As she hails from Kolkata, the derby holds a special place in her heart and her aim is to officiate a derby as the capacity of a match commissioner.
She feels people have often refused to acknowledge her achievements and have instead pointed to her lineage for her success.
"It is sad that people think that since I am the daughter of an organiser, the journey has been a cake-walk for me. They choose to ignore my efforts. I had to forgo the opportunity to meet and greet the FIFA president as I had to go to Manipur to make my debut as match commissioner in the U-14 national championship," laments Mukherjee.
Her immediate aim is to officiate in as many men's senior matches as possible and gain the necessary experience. On the other hand, as a member of AIFF's women's committee, she remains committed to promoting women's football in India.
"If the AIFF sets up elite academies for age-group girls, women's football in India will have a fresh lease of life. We must remember that the junior players are the future of the senior team and we must put in more effort for their development," stated Mukherjee.
The former manager of India women's national team has set up a women's football club in Kolkata called the Dipti Sangha FC and she hopes that her pet-project will produce several future national stars.