AIFF wants women referees to perform in men's I-League

AIFF ensured that it was taking steps towards helping women officials make the cut to officiate men’s game in the upcoming I-League season.

By Naveen Peter ·

Following on the footsteps of its European counterparts, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) hopes to have women match officials take charge of the men’s matches in the domestic league in the near future.

AIFF’s Referees’ Director J Ravishankar said that the governing body was making efforts on getting the women officials up to speed with the men’s game.

“Our target for the women referees is to make them capable to undergo the fitness tests and to be able to officiate I-League matches,” Ravishankar told AIFF TV. The I-League is slated to start on January 9.

“They will also have to take the challenge head-on because it will be more challenging physically as well as psychologically. I am confident that they have the quality to match our expectations,” he added.

India have a total of eight referees and 10 assistant referees on FIFA’s elite panel. Though the number is smaller when compared to other Asian nations, match officials India have been making big strides over the past few years.

Among women, Uvena Fernandes is the most experienced Indian official, having officiated at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Ranjita Devi Tekcham, Riiohlang Dhar and Kanika Barman are among the latest crop to make the international grade.

Uvena Fernandes was one of the assistant referees in the final of the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Photo: AFC/Twitter

Ravishankar believed that the introduction of the Indian Women’s League -- the domestic league for women’s in India -- has aided in pushing the Indian officials to a higher level.

"Our women referees have done exceptionally well. Ranjita is rated as one of the top women match officials in Asia. With the Indian Women’s League coming in, they are getting more chances,” said Ravishankar, who’s been a part of the FIFA panel of referees for 17 years.

“I am sure someone like (Kanika) Barman would be able to do a better job and comparatively, she would come out faster against the men referees in India.”

Moreover, with the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled to be held in India next year, the AIFF official was confident of having a handful of Indians in the referees’ panel for the competition.

“We are hopeful that they will get an opportunity to prove their worth in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year. It is our aspiration and it will be a really proud moment for us. We can proudly say Indian football has come forward together,” he said.

Lead photo: AFC/Twitter