Another Feather in the Crown
Kanika Barman, the woman referee from Bengal has achieved a new distinction this year. She has been included in Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) elite panel. Along with Ranjita Debi from Manipur, this 29-year-old has been the second woman referee from India to have been selected in the AFC Elite panel.
Kanika Barman had already earned a FIFA badge in 2020. But despite being a FIFA referee Kanika was not getting deserving assignments. She was officiating third and fourth division league matches. From that perspective, Kanika sounded happier this time stating,
“Now after being included in the AFC Elite panel, I hope I would be getting the opportunity to officiate as a referee or by standing on the line in the top matches organized by AFC and if I can perform in the AFC matches consistently it will lead me to Rome! That means the most desired opportunity to get included in the panel for the women’s World Cup in the future.”
Kanika has already been officiating India’s best women’s football league IWL since 2018. She has officiated 10 matches also in the League this year including the final as the referee.
Kanika Barman Struggling Days
Kanika Barman hails from a village named Shalugara. It is in Siliguri, in the north of West Bengal. Financially she belonged to a lower-middle-class family. Still, from the age of only seven years, Kanika showed a passion for sports, especially athletics at that time. She was a medalist in 100 meters, 200 meters, and long jump in the state championship.
Her brother Dipu barman also was a footballer. Even a sheer financial crisis was not able to throw cold water on Kanika’s passion and effort. She still remembers those severe days but derives the positive part of it saying,
“I did not have the affordability to take nutritious food after training. But today, when the referee instructors are impressed by my speed and mental toughness, I feel this is the gift of those hard days.”
Not only athletics but playing football regularly also helped Kanika to acquire the competence required to become a successful referee. She regularly played football and even donned Indian shirts in an invitation football tournament in 2011 where her goal guided Indian girls to win the match.
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Following Bengal’s former FIFA referee Udayn Haldar’s encouragement, Kanika started her journey in 2012. While supervising matches in the Kolkata football League Kanika had obtained a temporary job also. That was civic volunteering in the city’s traffic police department. Kanika had to do tremendous hard work during these days to continue with referring training and tests as well as to maintain the strenuous job of a civic volunteer. She said,
“After rigorous training in the early morning, I used to go for duty, standing on the road till evening and then again returned to referees’ tent to appear for theoretical and practical classes also. My body did not respond out of immense tiredness. I became almost sleepy. Still, I never failed to appear for the scheduled classes.”
Kanika got the result of her hard work. She got the prize assignment of supervising a derby match in the Kolkata Premier League between Mohun Bagan-Mohammedan Sporting at the Salt Lake Stadium. Following her, one verdict Mohammedan Sporting players rushed to her as well as Mohun Bagan players also offered squishy words. But Kanika showing a great piece of coolness and guts placated the players and finished it in style. In another Premier League match between East Bengal and Railway FC, East Bengal’s foreign striker James Moga chased Kanika but had to come back silently. In 2020, in a Punjab-Kerala match in the Khelo University championship, Kanika had to issue 9 red cards. Kanika had to face a lot of criticism before she started supervising matches in Kolkata. But everybody has stopped mocking and criticizing Kanika finally.
Kanika Barman: The Dream & Inspiration
Kanika Barman dreams of getting the opportunity to supervise matches in the under-17 women’s World Cup in 2026. Kanika is married and she has a daughter also. The pregnancy compelled her to stop referring for a long time. Then covid-19 forced her to confine in her home. Still, indomitable Kanika is continuing her training at home, and in this fight, Kanika revealed her inspiration is the country’s legendary woman referee Maria Rebello.
“I take a lot of advice from Maria. After talking to her I always feel my belief in myself has increased. I will also be able to reach that height where I can make my country proud.”
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