Shillong: It is not often that India has a reason to cheer in Women’s Football. Meghalaya’s Riiohlang Dhar has given us one such moment. She became one of two women referees who will officiate during the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup India 2022- Qualifier Group D in Lebanon from September 17 to September 23, 2021.

Riiohlang Dhar, a constable at the Meghalaya Police (MLP), will join Ranjita Devi Tekcham from Manipur. In 2018, Dhar and Ranjita Devi Tekcham made it to the coveted list of elite FIFA International referees.

Dhar is a resident of Jowai town in West Jaintia Hills and the eldest among her two siblings. Speaking with EastMojo, Dhar mentioned that she was concerned about the fitness test due to the prevailing Covid situation. Nevertheless, she expressed happiness that she had cleared her exams again.

“I am here in Kolkata for the fitness test for FIFA nomination, which I cleared today. These exams are not like other exams. We have to renew them every year. The first time I was selected was in 2018, and from then on, I kept getting selected,” said Dhar. Asked if the travel expenses were taken care of, Dhar responded in the negative. She said the organisers only paid for the food and lodging.

“It is difficult. For the upcoming trip to Lebanon, I will have to pay, but they will reimburse me. My concern is the reimbursement usually takes some time. I don’t have a strong financial background. Even if I am working with the Meghalaya Police, it doesn’t mean that I am earning so much, it is just a meagre amount. I have to also support my family,” Dhar told EastMojo. Dhar said she had not received any help from the government either. She added that there were times when she wanted to approach the government, but she didn’t.

“I have not even received any recognition or even felicitation by the government. I was selected in 2018 also, and since then, the government has never felicitated me for bringing pride to the state. I don’t know what the reason is. Is it because I am just a referee? It is unfortunate since I am not doing this only for myself. I want to bring pride to the state and the country,” mentioned Dhar.

She added that to date, only the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) from Mawlai, the West Jaintia Sports Association and the Shillong Sports Association (SSA) have felicitated or awarded her. Her workplace: The 1st Battalion (Meghalaya Police) had also felicitated her and presented her with a memento.

“I think for travelling to Lebanon, the air tickets at the moment are somewhere around Rs 83,000. Now, apart from this, the cab expenses to book till the airport. My salary isn’t sufficient for bringing food to the table at home,” Dhar informed, wondering how to go about making the travel arrangements.

Dhar said that she felt they don’t receive the same respect as sportspersons. Dhar said that it could be because unlike athletes, referees do not bring medals. Dhar recalled that in the past, she had sought for a deputation to the sports lane or a post in the sports department. She had even applied, but it was rejected.

Dhar said she expects the government’s support and not to be treated like this. “Give us equal treatment like all sportspersons and don’t think less of a referee. It would be nice if the government encourages us. It will motivate us to inspire others since this is the first time someone has been selected from Meghalaya,” mentioned Dhar.

She further mentioned that many think that referees earn a salary, but it is not so. “We are paid per game. In Meghalaya, we get about Rs 200 per game,” stated Dhar.

In 2020, when Dhar’s results were announced, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and the Meghalaya Police were quick to congratulate Dhar on her achievement on social media. But this time, no one has congratulated or felicitated her.

The working president of the Meghalaya State Olympic Association, (MSOA) John F Kharshiing, said that it is a matter of pride that she is one of only two women referees from India to pass the recently conducted stringent FIFA selection process. “Congratulations Kong Riiohlang Dhar for this continued progress in Sports,” said Kharshiing.

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