Kerala auto driver is now AIFF referee

FP

M P Santosh Kumar has two regular day jobs caretaker of an apartment complex in Kottayam, Kerala, as well as an auto-rickshaw driver. Now, the 37-year-old can add a third to the list a contracted referee with the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

During his growing-up years, Santosh nursed dreams of becoming a footballer. But with his modest skills not getting him much field time, he decided to become a referee at the age of 20. Despite his days of financial struggle that saw him switch several low-paying jobs, Santosh continued to officiate games.

His persistence has finally paid off. Santosh is among the AIFF's first batch of three contracted professional referees. His seven-month contract guarantees him 20 I-League matches and a sum of Rs 2 lakh, in addition to allowances. Santosh hopes this will help him repay the loan he took to buy his auto-rickshaw, for which he had to mortgage wife Deepa's jewellery.

When not officiating a game, Santosh's day usually stretches to 16 hours. He trains from 6.30 am to 8 am at the Nehru Stadium in Kottayam to maintain his fitness. For the next six hours, he is the caretaker of the apartment complex. And after 2 pm, he ferries passengers in his auto-rickshaw, before calling it a day well past 9 pm.

"As refereeing doesn't pay enough, and I had to sustain my family which includes my mother, wife and two school-going children,

I bought an auto-rickshaw two years ago," said Santosh. "But refereeing is my passion... this new contract that guarantees me a fixed salary will hopefully help me tide over my financial crises," he added.

His journey from a state-level referee to a FIFA referee, to which he was appointed only last year, took nearly two decades. On Sunday, Santosh will officiate his first match as an AIFF-contracted referee East Bengal versus Sporting Club de Goa in Goa.

... contd.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on indianexpress.com are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, indianexpress.com reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.