Vinod Dhanraj works and lives in Germany, but his real love is football and once he came to Germany, he realised that playing was no option, so he became a referee and has officiated as high as the Bayernliga (fifth German division).
But his dream has always been to officiate in India and he has now fulfilled that dream. I got to speak to him post that match in the Bangalore Super Division!
Congratulations Vinod in officiating in the BDFA Super Division league on the last day of 2019. How was the experience?
It was an amazing experience. To stand in the middle once again at the Bangalore Football Stadium was a thrilling experience. I still get the goosebumps re-living the first few moments of the match once again.
How did the players of South United FC and AGORC take to your officiating!
Interestingly enough my first foul call was against ex-India international N.S. Manju who was playing central defence for AGORC, he was obviously not pleased with my call (laughs). It was a great game, a few of the players did ask if I was from Bangalore having not seen me in the league. Except for maybe one or two incidents there was good accepting to my calls and it was a free flowing match.
Now let’s get to the German part. How did you get into refereeing?
So I started refereeing when I moved to Regensburg (in southern Germany) on work. I wanted to get back into football so the options were either as coach or referee. I chose refereeing because I wanted to be on the field again and it just happened that the referees exam was going to take place so I registered for that and SSV Jahn Regensburg (Bundesliga 2 side) spotted me, from then on it was no looking back.
How have your experiences been refereeing in Germany?
So far it’s been really good. The first few years were a bit difficult adapting to the style of play and the on field mannerisms needed. I was lucky to get some good media attention about my refereeing. So now after standing in 317 matches I do have a good feel for the game here in Germany but every match is a different one and challenging but I feel much more comfortable on the field as before. It’s also a good feeling when the coaches, players and field staff recognize you from the previous matches, it makes it a lot easier to sell my decisions.
I remember we spoke a few years ago, were you told me, I want to referee in India. It took a while but now its happened, what do you think about it?
In hindsight I feel it was good that it happened this way, I could mature as a referee. It took some time due to the fact that I made some very short trips and was not able to sit down and discuss things with the KSFA (Karnataka State Football Association) but I’m really thankful to Mr. Andrew Shekhar (Head of Referees KSFA) for encouraging and supporting me throughout the process by keeping in contact and helping me with the registration and the other formalities involved.
You brought technology from Germany to officiate. How did that go with your assistants?
They were very excited. My two assistants for the match were both national referees. We had very good communication during the match. I think it’s time for the refereeing in India to take the next step in using technology and setting a high standard in terms of refereeing.
I will be doing a few workshops with them to get them up to speed with the referee paging system. Right now cost is a big factor but as an engineer with nine patents in the field of arc fault technology, I feel it’s time to invent something effective and cost productive for the Indian market, I do have some ideas on how to solve these problems, I’ve already started working on a solution. I should be able to provide some prototypes soon.
Will you officiate more matches of the BDFA Super Division league?
Unfortunately I came towards the end of the season. I will be officiating the next season which means I have to plan an extended vacation in India that covers atleast 3/4 of the Bangalore Super Division season but I do have a very supportive employer in Siemens and it should be possible.
Now that you have done the BDFA Super Division league, what’s the aim for you in refereeing?
My next step is to complete the necessary formalities needed to appear for the category 2 national examination which I should be able to do this year. After which I will be able to officiate in the I-League.
I like to keep short goals for myself, the next step would then be the ISL. In Germany the goal is to be consistent and then work my way up to the Regionalliga (German fourth division).