On 26 June, when the Bangladesh women’s team was celebrating with the trophy after winning the FIFA friendly series against Malaysia, Jaya was standing beside the stage, visibly excited. The excitement wasn’t just because of the team’s achievement, but also for her accomplishment.
Jaya, a football coach in BKSP, is pursuing a Masters’ degree from India’s Banaras University on physical education. Jaya received the proposal to conduct the match when she was there, “I was in Banaras. BFF (Bangladesh Football Federation) informed me that I have been appointed as the referee for the FIFA friendly match. They wanted to know, could I come? I had some important work in Banaras. But it was a chance to officiate in a senior level football match for the first time, I couldn’t say no. I was waiting for this match.”
Jaya had officiated in 37 age-level matches before, but for her this match was different, “This was the first time I officiated in a FIFA international match. There is some added pressure as a member of the home team. The opponent shouldn’t feel that I am a Bangladeshi referee, so biased towards them.”
Usually, referees from the host nation are not allowed to conduct a FIFA friendly match. But this time, after BFF sent a list of local referees to the FIFA, the approval came. The opponent Malaysia also didn’t complain. All in all, it’s safe to say that luck also favoured Jaya.
In the following August, the women’s SAFF Championship will take place in Nepal. Jaya hopes to work as a referee there also, “Although I have a FIFA badge, due to Covid I didn’t get opportunities to officiate in international games. I have conducted age-level matches in SAFF. Now, if I can conduct matches in SAFF, I will fulfill one of my aims.”
Jaya also wants to conduct men’s games in domestic competitions, “If I get the opportunity, I want to officiate matches in the Premier League too. I would be happy if I get to officiate an Abahani-Mohammedan match even once.”
The history graduate from Jahangirnagar University also has another dream, “In a football festival in Germany, I had once officiated a match between Argentina and Brazil. It was a friendly match between academy age-level teams. By I dream of officiating an actual Brazil-Argentina match.”
*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy.