The Whistle Men of Indian Football

Run 50m in a flat out sprint, constantly trying to make sense of everything that is happening around you as you do so. Disregard your breathing. Disregard your body’s movement. Concentrate solely on the action around you. Now stop and, without giving yourself time to recover, try to clearly recollect a piece of action that occurred 5 seconds ago and make a firm decision about the rights and wrongs of said action. Done? Correctly? Repeat for the next 90 minutes.

Welcome to officiating 101.


MB Santhosh Kumar remembers the moment clearly. The Indian Super League was in its fourth season, and Chennaiyin FC were playing Atletico de Kolkata at home in early December At around the 66th minute, after a tussle near the touchline, the ball went out of bounds. Kumar, without seeking help from his linesman, awarded a corner.

Chennaiyin played it short. Gavilan and Calderon exchanged passes on the edge of the box before Gavilan clipped the ball in towards the six-yard area. Sereno rising high struck the upright from five yards. The rebound fell kindly to Jeje Lalpekhlua who gratefully nodded the ball in. Chennaiyin had the lead. Jeje had his first goal of the season.

“When we reviewed it after the game as part of our referee evaluation system, I saw that it wasn’t a corner. It should have been a goal kick,” Kumar said. “It was a decision that changed the result of the game perhaps. But on the field, I gave the decision based on what I saw.”

About the Writer

Vaibhav Raghunandan is a freelance designer, illustrator and sports writer. He is also a full time cook. He runs marathons, and cycles long distances in his free time.

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