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New Delhi, August 12, 2020
Officiating in matches involving top teams of the world at international tournaments is never easy, says experienced hockey umpire Javed Shaikh.
Officiating at top international events requires a lot of mettle, confidence and, most of all, one must possess the ability to hold one's ground with the right decision no matter the kind of pressure coaches or players put during the matches, said the Mumbai-based umpire.
"In my own experience, senior players always try to dominate over a junior umpire, especially when a decision goes against them. When I began, top players like Dhanraj Pillay were actively playing domestic matches and it was never easy to officiate their matches.
"But I always tell youngsters that they must hold their ground. They need to be mentally strong, possess good communication and also build a rapport with players off the field so there is mutual respect," he opined.
Looking back at his career in umpiring that has spanned over two decades, Shaikh says it has been a most satisfying experience.
"Umpiring has helped me in a big way to improve my own personality. To be able to stand on the field with 10,000 to 15,000 spectators, managing 22 top players, was something unimaginable for a shy, reserved type of person like me but umpiring has changed my life and instilled tremendous self-confidence.
"Representing the country in the World Cup and Olympics too has been a huge honour and I hope many more youngsters grab the opportunities provided today to make a path for themselves in officiating," said Javed, who is appointed as umpire for the coming Tokyo Olympics Games by FIH.
Talking to Hockey India, Javed said that, back in the '90s, there were hardly three or four international umpires available in the country to officiate matches in prestigious international tournaments but things have dramatically changed now.
Hockey India's efforts have resulted in over 14-15 international umpires being graded by FIH and often called-up for international assignments. "Even a decade ago, taking up umpiring was always a 'second option' for many. It was mostly ex-players, around 35-38 years, whose careers would have ended playing for their employers that often took umpiring to stay relevant in the sport.
"But these days, with the kind of encouragement and opportunities being provided by the Federation, we have many who are 25 years and younger who take up umpiring. This really makes me feel proud," he said .
With domestic events put on a hold due to the ongoing pandemic, Hockey India has ensured this period is not lost for technical officials and umpires in the country.
Since the nationwide lockdown began in March, the national governing body for hockey has conducted regular online courses for technical officials and umpires in the country. They have also encouraged many of them to attend the recent online courses conducted by Asian Hockey Federation which were aimed at providing technical expertise on various aspects of officiating and managing international matches. All of these courses have been conducted free of cost.
This constant attempt to keep the umpires updated with workshops, online courses, materials, videos and so on has helped several umpires upskill their knowledge.
"Back when I began umpiring in the year 1999-2000, things were very different. We had to seek guidance from senior umpires at our own interest and there was never any courses or seminars as such. The lack of encouragement and knowledge-base to learn often kept people from pursuing hockey officiating," said Javed, who has umpired at major events such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, 2014 World Cup in Hague as well as the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
Hockey India has also formed WhatsApp groups with one experienced international umpire in each group consisting 15 upcoming officials to engage in healthy debate and discussions on different challenges that arise while officiating.
"These groups are constantly active where we share ready material with videos to provide clarity on various situations in matches. From Maharashtra alone, we had about 70 young officials who were actively taking part in these discussions on the group. I feel by using technology to guide young officials, umpires and technical officials, Hockey India has rekindled interest among many youngsters, both men and women, especially below 25, to take up officiating," he added.