The struggles and dreams of Bengal football referee Ujjal Halder, who runs a tea stall

Written by: Sujata Sarkar

Kolkata, Sep 3: His name is Ujjal Halder. His age is only 24 years. But he is probably the only one from Bengal in recent times, to have earned a place in the specialist of assistant referees (linesman) by the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) referee's committee.

The dusty man from Kalyani, a city in West Bengal with 50 kilometers' from Kolkata however does not want to be elated with this achievement.

Ujjal Halder

Even he seems nonchalant when reminded that he was one of those best four performers in the last season’s second division I League. The reason can be guessed. Probably, the excruciating life has made this 24-year old man lenient and tolerant. He has learned to accept every pain and even every achievement as his due.

Halder lives in small (10 feet by 10 feet space) room. His father died in his childhood. His mother Nilurani has a tea stall in front of their house. And the tea stall is run by both mother and son.

Halder said, “It can be understandable how much earning can come from a mere tea stall. But at the moment I do not have any alternative source of earning.”

And in Kolkata premier football league a linesman receives only Rs 450 per match! So, a referee or the two linesmen whoever might be, earns such a paltry amount of money at the end of the season that no one should be inspired to come to referring.

Still Halder was highly passionate on referring. He got a temporary job in the state government last year. But when offered to supervise matches as linesman in the Santosh Trophy, Halder did not hesitate and lost his job!

Halder knows he will not be able to be whistle blower in any elite championship in India or in any international championship due to short height (5 feet 5 inch).

The linesman said, "I will not be able to supervise matches with whistle in an I League match due to short height". So, two years ago, following advice from the country’s leading and experienced referees Halder preferred to be a linesman.

And now, his dream is to become another K Shankar in the field of Indian refereeing! Halder said, "Despite being short-heighted, K. Shankar has been a legend. He has supervised matches in the World Cups, standing on the line. I also try to follow him. He had given me a lot of suggestions. And I am moving in that direction".

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