A reward for perseverance


R V Raghu Prasad is the first umpire from Karnataka in the          FIH’s World Development Panel. DH Photo/ M N VasuHe wasn’t blessed with enough talent to make a mark as a player but R V Raghu Prasad loved hockey too much to let it go. Taking up umpiring was the way he found to remain in the sport and eight years on, Raghu has reasons to smile. For, he has gained promotion into the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) World Development Panel, taking a big step forward in his career.

“I am so thrilled to be included in the WDP list. It is one of the goals that I had set in 2005 and to have achieved it is a great feeling. It now makes my promotion to the World Panel -- the highest tier -- a much easier task,” said the 31-year-old Raghu, who feels all the hard work he has put in is finally paying off.

Raghu first dreamt of becoming a doctor but after failing to clear his second year PUC exams in his first attempt, he chose to become an engineer and completed his degree in aircraft maintenance. But his main interest was in hockey and being an ordinary player, the only way he could be on the pitch was as an umpire.

“I started playing hockey in 1987-88. The game attracted me instantly. Since I was not a great player I thought umpiring would the best way I could keep myself in the sport that I am so passionate about. After watching my friend Poovaiah umpiring, I too decided to take the plunge,” said the Bangalorean.

Raghu impressed many during the 2001 KSHA Super Division league featuring some of the top clubs and players from across India. Following KSHA Secretary K Krishnamurthy’s advice, he took up the National Grade umpires test and got his first big break when he was posted for the 2001 Junior Nationals in Karim Nagar, Andhra Pradesh.

Raghu’s climb has been swift from then on. In 2002 he graduated as a National Grade-I umpire and a year later officiated his first international match during the Four-nation twin-leg tournament in Australia. Now, 17 international tournaments later, he has become the first person from Karnataka to be included in WDP.

“Raghu has the potential to become one of the top umpires. His consistent performance has seen him grow from national level to international level in a short span of time. His calmness, fitness and willingness to learn from mistakes have been the major contributing factors in his rise,” said Krishnamurthy.

However, all this success comes at a price. Until recently, international umpires were not paid any match fee by the FIH. With travel and lodging taken care of, an umpire was paid $20-30 as daily allowance.

“Yes, an umpire’s job is like a honorary post. The FIH pays us 50 euros per day out of which we have to manage our expenses, barring accommodation and travel. This makes life very difficult. You need to have another job if you want to become a hockey umpire.

“The initial years were a struggle. I didn’t take up any other job because very few would give frequent leaves to officiate in tournaments. Seeing my college friends earning handsome salaries, I did decide to quit umpiring in 2005. But thanks to the support from my parents and KSHA, especially Krishnamurthy sir, I was able chase my goals,” said Raghu.

After having walked the tough path, Raghu’s hopes to reach the summit -- the World Panel --  by the end of this year. “You need to be in the World Panel to officiate in World Cup and Olympics. Otherwise, you are just limited to FIH tournaments. It will be a dream come true to officiate in New Delhi’s 2010 World Cup,” Raghu said.

Raghu’s next major assignment will the 31st Men’s Champions Trophy in Melbourne this November. A good show there can probably help him blow the whistle for the first time in a World Cup match.

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