Shillong, Mar 27: She has received acclaim for being the first Meghalayan to become a FIFA assistant referee and Asian Football Confederation elite panel referee but Ri-iohlang Dhar almost never got into football in the first place.

“Before, my first priority was not football. I was more into athletics and basketball,” she told All India Radio in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday.

When trials were called for at her school in West Jaintia Hills, she “was not interested all that much in football” but went along because of a friend and, in the end, Dhar was selected for her school team and then for the Meghalaya state side.

Despite being the only FIFA assistant referee from the state and one of the few women from the whole of India to get this far, Dhar does still face challenges in getting the funding and the time off from her day job to take up officiating duties, especially outside the country.

Nevertheless, she has already worked at tournaments in the Philippines, Bhutan, Nepal, Lebanon, South Africa and Kyrgyzstan.

Going from player to referee has also given Dhar experience of two sides of the same coin. She has to stand up to strong verbal and body language from players who disagree with her decisions on the pitch but Dhar admits that when she was a footballer she argue with the officials and even use “slang words” because players do not generally understand the need for respect for referees.

You can catch the full interview with Dhar on ‘In a League of Their Own’ on the North Eastern Service of All India Radio on Sunday at 7:05PM on 100.1 FM, DTH and online.

(TSR file photo)

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