More than anything else, it is passion that drives members of the Bombay Football Referees Association (BFRA) to officiate Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) matches. And they are continuing to prove that, despite not being paid for six months.

A referee officiates an MDFA Super Division game between Intelnet FC and Byculla United at the St Xavier's ground in Parel yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK
A referee officiates an MDFA Super Division game between Intelnet FC and Byculla United at the St Xavier's ground in Parel yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK 

Referee Kishore Pujari, who works as a physical education teacher with a school in Chembur said, "MDFA has not paid us since October. They owe me about Rs 40,000 now. However, we come here not for the money but the passion that we have for football. We feel that the show must go on." According to the referee, they get paid: Rs 150 per match for Div I, II and III and Rs 200 for Super Division and Elite Division matches.

The dues apart, the organisers do not ensure safety of the referees, said Pujari. "Leave aside how much we are paid, we always end up facing the brunt of a heated argument that takes place on the field between two teams. If things go out of hand and people intimidate us physically, there is nobody to provide our safety."

Losing count
Joe Pereira, who is employed with BEST as a motor mechanic said refereeing is not his primary source of income. He said, "We do not keep a record of how much money MDFA owes us. But I officiate matches for the love of the game. I have not received payments since October 2013. But not all referees are employed. There are some for whom this is the only source of income, while others do it for extra income. MDFA should ideally pay us on time."

Pereira surprised
When mid-day contacted Walter Pereira, chairman of the referees board of Maharashtra, he was surprised. "I am not aware that the referees haven't been paid by the MDFA for six months. If they haven't been paid, that's wrong on MDFA's part. I feel they should be paid on a daily basis or under unusual circumstances, the payments shouldn't be delayed by more than a month.

"I cannot intervene until the protocol is followed. The referees need to first write to MDFA. If no action is taken then they should write to Western India Football Association (WIFA) and then we could look into the matter." MDFA secretary Hugh Banerjee said, "We have not paid referees for the Elite Division matches. We will clear the dues once we receive the entry fee for the Elite and Super Division matches by March 31."