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Tekcham Ranjita Devi is only the second woman referee from Manipur to have been awarded the FIFA badge. Having fought against severe adversities since childhood Ranjita has ensured her place in the FIFA panel in 2018. Before that, she had gone on to supervise a men’s football match in the I-League qualifiers in Bangalore in 2017. So far, the 37-year-old woman referee has been assigned to four international matches including three as an assistant referee and one as the head referee. She was the head referee in the Japan-Maldives match in the women’s South Asian Games held in Shillong. Ranjita has also worked as an assistant referee and head referee in more than 51 national-level tournaments.
The Hardship of Ranjita Devi
Ranjita Devi hails from Kongjam, Manipur, a village around an hour-distance from Imphal. She is the youngest one among five siblings. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a housewife. Ranjita played football until 2009 when a disease forced her to quit the game she loved. She was always inspired by her elder brother Tombi Singh who was a referee himself, but could not become a national referee. Her family went through extreme hardship to survive financially which caused dire financial distress for Ranjita.
“We all brothers and sisters had to struggle a lot for survival. I had nothing when I used to play football. I did not even have a good pair of shoes or a jersey. I could not get the bare minimum amount of money for food. Father used to sell vegetables to bring food to the table.”
Ranjita got a job in Manipur Police in 2013, a post of woman constable in the 9th Indian Reserve Battalion. The job improved Ranjita’s financial condition but forced her to stop refereeing for the next two years completely as she did not get permission from her office to go for training and examinations. She came back with the whistle in 2015 again.
“It was a big upset for me. Still, I kept myself psychologically strong with the hope I would be back again, appearing for the referee’s examinations and becoming a quality referee. I used to keep myself fit through training with the male referees at Imphal whenever I got time.”
Ranjita Devi’s experience from men’s football match
Ranjita still remembers the only men’s football match she supervised as the head referee in the I-League qualifiers in Bangalore in 2017.
“Initially I became quite nervous as the reactions of the men’s footballers against the referee’s decision became different compared to women’s matches. But as the match wore on I shrugged off my nervousness and supervised it smartly.
Influence of Maria Rebello & foreign referees
Ranjita’s idol in Indian women’s refereeing is Maria Rebello, the first woman referee to have supervised men’s football in India. This apart, Ranjit revealed she gained huge experience when she was included in the panel of referees for the women’s Asian Cup held in India. It was a big learning curve for her to be refereeing with top referees from Australia and Japan.
Inspiration from 3 Women Referees in Qatar
Ranjita while commenting on the three women referees who were on the referees’ panel in Qatar World Cup sounded excited. She said,
“It has been a great encouragement for the referees across the world like us. It increases our boost. If those three can ensure a place in the World Cup referees’ panel then we can also earn qualification to get into the panel for such a mega-event.”