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How many match officials do India have in AFC Elite Referees panel?

Published at :April 2, 2024 at 9:42 PM
Modified at :April 2, 2024 at 9:42 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Uttiyo Sarkar

Two match officials recently got selected in the AFC’s Elite Referees panel.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) have been hard at work in aiming to improve the general quality of refereeing in major football competitions. By developing more training programmes for officials and bringing in experts from foreign countries to educate them, they’ve helped the overall knowledge of Indian referees to be improved over the last few years.

Recently, the AIFF confirmed that two of their Match Officials have been selected to be part of AFC’s Elite Referees panel. Harish Kundu, who has overseen many Indian Super League (ISL) matches this season and assistant referee Ujjal Halder have both been granted AFC Elite Referee licenses.

This will enable these two officials to partake in international assignments. Basically, the two can now work during the international window in overseeing matches approved by the AFC. This includes friendly games or matches that are operated by the AFC – like the AFC Cup, AFC Champions League etc.

Kundu, who was the referee for memorable matches like Mohun Bagan’s 4-3 win over Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC’s 3-2 win over Bengaluru FC this season, becomes the seventh referee to get this badge. He joins a coveted group of Indian referees to have earned this honour across their careers.

Some of the other Indian match referees to hold the AFC Elite Badge include Pranjal Banerjee, Arowan Arumugam, CR Srikishna, Tejas Nagvenkar and Venkatesh Ramachandran. Srikrishna and Nagvenkar were granted their badges back in 2019, while Ramachandran received the honour in 2022. India have also had female referees to have the AFC Elite Referees badge, which includes Kerala’s Bentla D’Coth (from 2001-2010) and Goan Maria Rebello.

It’s actually not that easy to secure an AFC Elite Referee badge and the officials are really made to work hard for the honour. As per an AIFF report from back in 2018, these are the tasks that referees are made to undergo in the course to attain this badge:

  • Venue: AFC House
  • 24 Referees from Asia attended the four-day course.
  • All the participants were evaluated through classroom & practical activities
  • Fitness (Fitness Test)
  • LOTG Test
  • Video Test (match incidents)
  • Presentation skill
  • English Test
  • Group discussion
  • Incident analysis
  • Practical Refereeing skill – each participant to officiate (7-10m)

Ujjal Halder, meanwhile, has also been working in the Indian football scene for many years as an assistant referee. He currently does refereeing work both in the ISL and the I-League. Some of the matches he has acted as the first assistant referee or second assistant referee include FC Goa’s 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC, Mumbai City’s 2-0 win over Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC’s 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters. Halder becomes the ninth assistant referee to earn the AFC Elite Referees’ badge.

Halder joins a number of knowledgeable Indian assistant referees to have secured this AFC license. Some of the other assistant referees to have the same include female officials like Uvena Fernandes and Riiohland Dhar.

With this ‘ascension’ to getting the AFC badge, these officials can now partake in lucrative international assignments. Of course, referees or assistant officials are paid pretty well for the matches they cover for the AFC – be it friendly games or AFC competition games. Hence, Kundu and Halder can now get some international experience and better pay going forward.

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