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Former national women players Pasi and Bassha turn coaches

Former national-level players and college pals, Pasi and Bassha, take up refereeing as an extension of their association with national game

Twenty-year-old Yogita Pasi and her college friend Sharmin Bassha (21) have been quite impressive with their performance in the ongoing Mumbai School Sports Association inter-school hockey tournament for U-12 and U-10 boys at St Stanislaus Ground, Bandra.

Hockey umpires Sharmin Bassha (left) and Yogita Pasi lead the teams for a MSSA inter-school boys U-10 match at St Stanislaus Ground, Bandra on Saturday. Pic/Suresh KarkeraHockey umpires Sharmin Bassha (left) and Yogita Pasi lead the teams for a MSSA inter-school boys U-10 match at St Stanislaus Ground, Bandra on Saturday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

The MMK (Bandra) college girls are the only two female umpires on view for the Olympian Walter D’Souza League (U-12) and Oliver Andrade Trophy (U-10).

Bandra Talao resident Yogita has represented both Mumbai and Maharashtra at the national level, while Sharmin, a resident of Western Railway Colony (Bandra), is also the coach of the Mumbai sub-junior girls team, besides parading her hockey skills for Bandra-based Freunds United club in the MHA League. Having been state players themselves, the idea of refereeing occurred to the girls as an extension to their association with the national game.

Month-long course
"We enrolled for a month-long training course with the Mumbai Hockey Association. And following our theory, practicals and fitness tests, we became certified MHA referees. We decided to do this to keep the sport alive within ourselves," Yogita told mid-day after officiating the St Theresa (Bandra) vs Don Bosco (Matunga) U-10 encounter on Saturday.

The girls admit that it’s not easy officiating matches between little kids, who are often confused about the rules of the game. "Being girls, we do attract the piercing eyes of onlookers, but the tougher part of the job is when kids play in a crowd. It’s difficult to make decisions, and then coaches tend to criticise our calls. Ironically, some of the parents, who do not understand the rules, tend to flare up, and that’s not a pleasant sight," said Sharmin.

The job has its positives too though. "We are paid R150 per game and Rs 100 travelling allowance. For some, it may seem like pocket money, but we look at it as hard-earned income. The satisfaction of making the right on-field decisions though is the biggest incentive," said Yogita.

The girls are in it for the long haul. "We want to make it big in refereeing. We want young girls to look up to us as role models, and take up hockey. Our national game is sadly dying. Our dream is to one day officiate in international matches," said Sharmin, as she headed off to officiate the next match between the Dominic Savio (Andheri) and Don Bosco (Matunga) U-10 teams.

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