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Kids take up umpiring as umpires stay off

Inter-school badminton kids end up on the umpire's chair in the absence of regular officials, who want more pay

An umpire is a must for any sport. But it is unusual to see players themselves performing the umpire's duties as it happened in the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) inter-school badminton tournament at the North Indian Association yesterday. The players had to take up the role of umpires as there were no qualified umpires to conduct the matches.


In the hot seat: Jahan Asher (centre) performs the chair umpire's duties
during the MSSA badminton tourney at the North Indian Association courts
yesterday. PIC/SURESH KK


The reason for the umpires giving the meet a miss was a disagreement over remuneration. The umpires had reportedly demanded Rs 500 per day while the MSSA refused to pay anything above their standard rate of Rs 300 per day. "Last year we were paid Rs 200 a day and this year we asked for Rs 300 more as it is not possible for us to officiate the whole day getting only Rs 200," one of the umpires told MiD DAY.

Age limit of 55
So, despite the presence of two joint chief referees MM Kaveri and TRN Swamy, the players had to give verdicts as a rule says that any official over the age of 55 cannot officiate. Both being veterans failed to meet the criterion and had to stay away from the courts. But they did guide the players-turned-umpires.

"Not all the players will make it big and hence I was teaching them how to officiate matches so that in future they can think of taking up umpiring as a profession," Swamy told MiD DAY.

MSSA president Fr Jude Rodrigues was unaware of the incident. He said, "As I am not in Mumbai right now I don't know such a thing has happened. But surely players shouldn't be officiating matches in any event. If it has happened, then we will surely rectify it. When I visited the two venues three days ago, the chair umpires were present."

Excuse ready
On the other hand, Greater Mumbai Badminton Association secretary Kulin Manek was ready with a reason for the no show. "Due to the Ganesh festivals the umpires on board have all gone out of Mumbai. But the referees sitting at the side table were guiding the kids, who were officiating. So that's not an issue at all. Remuneration was never an issue, by the way."

Also rubbishing the claims was MSSA badminton secretary SL Pol.

"I don't know, who told you that there were no chair umpires. This must be the handiwork of one of the parents whose children may have lost. In fact, there were three umpires. And even if the kids did conduct matches, the referees must have been constantly telling them how to do so. As, in an emergency, they should know how conduct matches," Pol said. MSSA, being a grass root level tournament, is the ideal platform to tapĀ  upcoming talent. It is the very stage from where India's Prakash Padukones, P Gopichands and Saina Nehwals have risen to prominence.

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