Santosh Kumar: FIFA accredited refree drives auto-ricksaw

Nothing can stop you from achieving your goals, when the size of your desire is greater than the obstacle in your way. He had a knee injury shattering his dreams of becoming a footballer, but even that failed to diminish his love for the sport. Muringothumalil Santosh Kumar then moved to refereeing and eventually proved himself as one of India’s finest football referees by becoming one of the only six FIFA accredited on-field officials in India.

Early life and career

Things had never been smooth for the 40-year old referee. Hailing from Kottayam, Kerala, Kumar in his beginning phase, used to play football matches earning Rs 200 per match. But soon owing to the injuries and financial problems, he had to give up playing football and focus on refereeing the game. He kicked of his career as a rookie referee in local games before passing the written and physical exam for refereeing in 1996. But owing to the negligence and the underdog situation of the sport in our country, he had to take up other jobs in order to pay his bills.

He became a national level referee in 2004, but because of other work commitments he could never officiate in the matches he was assigned to. Later, he referred his first match as a professional on 7 October 2012, where the match between Sporting Goa and East Bengal ended 0-0. Kumar has also referred in Baichung Bhutia’s farewell game where Bayern Munich crushed India by 4-0 and in the I-League concluded a few months back where Mohun Bagan lifted the trophy.

Condition of sports in India

Cricket is the sport that has its strong foothold as a sport in India, suppressing all other in the league. Though with the recent uplifting of other sports in India, Kumar is however hopeful that the miserable condition of the sport will improve in near future. He also believes that though we are not up to the level as other international teams, but our performance has improved over the past years and it will only get better.

But despite everything, the picture of a FIFA accredited referee driving an auto-ricksaw to earn his bread makes us re-account the encouragement and promotion that needs to be given to the people and the sports authority to make them realize that there are sports in India other than cricket, where there are scopes, where people can make their future.

Mr. Kumar was awarded as the Best Referee for the year for 2014 by All India Football Federation (AIFF) earlier this year. With 5 more years of referee left in him (referees officiate games till the age of 45), we would love to see more of him on the fields, and hope that the sports authority reward his achievement and he doesn’t have to drive the ricksaw anymore.



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