The next time you think about asking a woman rugby player what it is like to play a man’s sport, remember that it’s the women in India who are not just taking the sport forward and beyond the Indian frontiers but also getting impressive results as compared to their male counterparts.
In a rare advancement from being a rugby player to a referee, Priya Bansal and Babli Rajput of Delhi Hurricanes have etched their names in the history of Indian rugby scene by being the first two international women referees from India.
In a candid conversation with Babli Rajput, international rugby player and now an international referee, she gives us an insight in the world of rugby in India, both as a player and a referee.
In a nation where playing a sport like Rugby in itself is so unique, you’ve gone a step further by being one of the two first ever international women referees from India. How did that happen?
Rugby India gives its players opportunities to explore new avenues. They encourage players to enrol for online referring courses. So after I suffered a ligament injury during the 2015 Nationals Games in Kerala, I had to take a break from playing. That’s when I registered for Level 1 referee course in Delhi and started as an assistant referee from club matches for Delhi Hurricanes. I really enjoyed the process.
How did being a referee change your perspective towards seeing the sport differently?
My teammate from Delhi Hurricanes Priya Bansal and I got an opportunity to attend a referee workshop in Singapore earlier this year. There we learned a lot about the game from the referees’ perspective. They taught us how a good referee can make a game enjoyable and control the pace of the game. Actually, I like one statement that draws me to the field as a referee that on field referee is the boss. But at the same time, he/she is responsible too. It’s a great job but challenging too.
How many tournaments have you been a part of so far as a referee?
I have been a referee for SGFI (School level tournaments) and All India national tournaments. Have also been an official for boys u-18 tournaments. My first big exposure was when I got an official invite from Future Hopes for Mini International tournament at Kolkata and then for Hyderabad Junior National tournament. I officiated the men’s 15-a-side matches at the National camp for Indian team selection. During our workshop in Singapore we also got a chance to be referees for the Singapore Midnight 10s where we met several referees from different countries.
What is the scope for women referees in the present scenario?
Women here have the scope to get into the Asian Panel. If girls are interested in the sport not just as players but those who also wish to take the sport ahead, they can start by getting into referring. As a rugby player if you want more then this is best time to start.
Making money through developing sports has always been a challenge in India. Is there any monetary benefit either now in the long run?
This is tough to answer. Rugby India currently cannot afford this. So we don’t get paid now for officiating matches. However, RI covers our Daily and Travel Allowances. We enjoy doing it so we are happy to be a part. We are yet in the learning stage, once we officially get into the list, maybe we will.
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