The AIFF Awards are a special occasion, and even more so for the referees, who play a key role in taking Indian Football forward together.
The two awards that have been reserved for match officials went to Tejas Nagvenkar (AIFF Award for the Best Referee 2020-21) and Sumanta Dutta (AIFF Award for the Best Assistant Referee 2020-21).
Expressing his gratitude after receiving the award, Nagvenkar said, “This award means a lot to me. It gives me a lot of motivation to make the sacrifices to be at the top level, and it is a validation of the hard work that I have put in for so many years. I’d like to dedicate this award to my family, my mentors and my well-wishers, and I’d also like to thank AIFF for giving me the opportunity.”
He has been a referee for 17 years, working his way through local football to eventually be included in the FIFA and the AFC Panels by 2016. Having officiated in the ISL, the I-League, along with other tournaments on the domestic front, and in the AFC Cup, the AFC Champions League, and other international matches, Nagvenkar feels that understanding the psychology of the players is crucial for a referee to perform well.
“It is very important to understand what the players want during the game. If I, as a referee, understand the psychology of the players, it becomes easier to handle the game,” informed Nagvenkar.
Sumanta Dutta, who has won the AIFF Award for Best Assistant Referee 2020-21, expressed his excitement at getting recognition from India’s apex football governing body.
“I was very excited when I got to know about the award. In fact, the first person to inform me of it was Tejas himself, who showed me the AIFF’s official announcement,” beamed Dutta. “I can’t explain the feeling at that point.”
Dutta, who has been an AIFF Panel referee since 2012, is also a part of the FIFA and AFC panel of referees. The Assistant Referee has officiated in most of the major domestic tournaments like ISL, I-League, Santosh Trophy, Super Cup, Durand Cup, and many others. On the international front, he has also officiated in AFC Cup matches and most recently in an International Friendly between Japan and the South Korea, earlier this year.
As an official operating on the touchline, Dutta feels that potential offside situations are the most challenging for an assistant referee.
“It’s extremely difficult to catch whether an attacker is offside or not. The action happens so fast that we really need to concentrate. Even a blink of an eye can mean that you could miss the action and make a wrong decision,” stated Dutta.