Another invasion into the male bastion

Nilanjan Datta

Trends — they are meant to be broken. The chauvinistic male has always dreamt of wearing black. They still can, but the monopoly no more stays.

Chimchim Serto, presently on duty in the AIFF U-14 Football Fest in Kalyani, stays one among the 23 Women Referees in India at the moment. And as per Chimchim, “the gang is increasing.”

Col. (Retd). Gautam Kar, Head of Referees Department, AIFF, smiles. “They are most welcome. If they pass the Fitness Test, they are even entitled to supervise Men’s matches,” Kar, who stayed the Match Commissioner for Asia’s biggest Club-match in 2011, the AFC Champions League, maintains.

“When you have a Women’s Referee, it’s bound to draw more attention. But to me, the gender stays immaterial.”

“I dream of becoming a FIFA Referee soon,” 23-year old Chimchim, who hails from Manipur, quips. At present, Maria Rebello stays the sole Women’s FIFA Referee in India.

“I have represented Manipur as a striker in Women’s Nationals and have played at the University Level,” Chimchim, in her squeaky voice, informs.

On the field, nevertheless, the squeak is almost a roar. The supervision impresses her colleagues, Tamnay Dhar, Subroto Burman and Kunal Sarkar. “She is as good as any male referee,” stays the compliment. Chimchim blushes.

“As referees, we ought to have confidence in our colleagues all the time. And with Chimchim, we stay assured,” they say unanimously.

We turn to Chimchim. Do you have trouble with the players? “No.”
Do they try to look down on you being a Woman Referee? “Never.”
Do they listen to you? “No.”
Do they stay happy with your decisions? “Always.”

Referees and players being the best of pals – unheard off, but only till now.

“The Sporting Culture in Manipur helps one to groom as a sportsperson,” Chimchim, who recently got a job with Manipur Police, maintains. “My fitness regime begins early morning. There are various levels of sprinting. At first, I am supposed to sprint 150metres in 35 seconds. And it goes on.”

“Concentration is also an quintessential part of a referee’s lifespan. The discipline in life is always reflected on the field,” a philosophical Chimchim, playing with the ball in her hand, reflects. “A referee has to be a born leader,” she goes on. “I have some special exercises to improve concentration. You can call it a part of meditation.”

Her whistle blows and the match kicks-off — you watch from a distance. Footballs being a body-contact sport, even at the U-14 level, tempers do run high. Chimchim rushes to the spot and her ‘roar’ takes over the rein.

The whistle blows again and the ball moves to the other part of the field. Chimchim sprints, and sprints fast. I check my earlier scribbles – ‘150 metres in 35 seconds.’

You overhear someone from the crowd speaking in the local dialect. “Mohila referee ta kintu bhalo khelachhen.” (The Women Referee is supervising in the right manner.