Kerala born auto rickshaw driver hired by AIFF to officiate I-League games

Monday 08 October 2012, 12:09 PM by

In a spectacular play of destiny, an Indian auto rickshaw driver has been hired by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as an official match referee for conducting professional football games in the country.

M. P. Santosh Kumar, a 37 year old auto rickshaw driver hailing from the backwaters of Kerala accomplished his teenage dream of becoming an official football match referee. Kumar also serves as a caretaker of an apartment complex in Kottayam, Kerala during the day, besides ferrying passengers in his auto rickshaw in the evening.

A football fan since boyhood, Kumar aspired to become a professional football player and struggled throughout his teen-aged years for getting his one big chance. However, due to lack of real field time and his genuine affection towards the sport, Kumar decided to become a professional referee when he reached 20 years of age. The humble auto rickshaw driver persevered through his financially crunched days and continued refereeing football games, besides having to switch several menial jobs.

Commenting on his hard earned contract from AIFF, Kumar said, “As refereeing doesn’t pay enough, and I had to sustain my family which includes my mother, wife and two school-going children, I bought an auto rickshaw two years ago. But refereeing is my passion.. this new contract that guarantees me a fixed salary will hopefully help me tide over my financial crises.”

Reportedly, AIFF has initially selected three professional referees on a contractual basis, in order to provide a regular course of income for people like Kumar. The two other referees hired by AIFF are an ex-serviceman Pratap Singh and C. R. Srikrishna, owner of an electronic appliances store.

Expressing his opinion on the contractual hiring of football referees in the country Gautam Kar, Head of refereeing, AIFF said, “When youngsters realise that being a football referee in India means getting a regular salary also, it will encourage them to become officials. Earlier, our referees used to be paid per match. Now, those who have been given a contract will earn almost double of what they used to get earlier.”

AIFF has presented Kumar with a seven month long contract, which will promise him a sum of Rs. 2 lacs with added allowances and will entail him to officiate some 20 I-League football games. Kumar has planned to repay his auto rickshaw loan that made him putting his wife Deepa's jewellery on mortgage. The auto rickshaw driver will officiate his first game featuring East Bengal versus Sporting Club de Goa, as a referee under AIFF contract on October 7, 2012 in Goa.

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