Then and now

SIBI ARASU | Updated on August 27, 2014

Sankar Komaleeswaran

BLink_Fifa world cup 2014.eps

The only man to have ever represented India in the FIFA World Cup, referee Sankar Komaleeswaran talks about being the whistle blower

Arguably, the greatest moment in Chennai-born Sankar Komaleeswaran’s football refereeing career was being part of the 2002 World Cup. Not only has the 51-year-old manned the lines at the Cup of all cups, over the years, he has also officiated in more than 250 international games. Last year, Komaleeswaran shifted base to Kuala Lumpur to be a part of the Asian Football Confederation’s referee development team. BLink caught up with the only Indian ever to have been part of the World Cup jamboree.

What was the 2002 World Cup like? Does it feel like it was a long time ago?

After so many years of training, it was awesome to be there. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, especially since it took a lot of hard work to be selected. I had to officiate in more than eight international tournaments in the years leading up to the World Cup to be eligible for the tournament. While this took me all over the world, it was certainly not easy, since at the international level, even the smallest mistake is noted. Having said that, after being involved with the game since I was five years old, I felt truly blessed that I got the opportunity to be in South Korea and Japan in 2002.

What do you think of the state of Indian football today?

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is doing an excellent job. Compared to a decade back, the facilities available today are great, and are ideal for new, talented players to come to the fore. While more support from the government would be good, programs such as the special referee development are already doing very well.

How has your experience in Malaysia been so far?

Great. I’m learning many new facets of the game from the AFC team. I’m also learning the guidelines for being a perfect football professional. My job is to recruit referees and analyse their performance, so I get to see a lot of new talent.

Is there an Indian contingent at Brazil this time?

No, I don’t think so. But AFC referees from Iran, Bahrain and Uzbekistan will be part of the proceedings there.

If you had to, which team would you wager on?

This is one of the most unpredictable World Cups ever played. But my guess is that the final will be played between a team from Latin America and Africa.

Published on June 06, 2014

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