The halt of sporting events in India due to the coronavirus has impacted the entire sporting ecosystem in the country more than one way. While we lost many of our legendary sportspersons, many athletes are concerned about their career prospects in the future owing lack of tournaments. On the other side of the discussion lies the career of many sports staff whose life revolved around the sport but now are languishing to make their both ends meet.
One such narrative can be found out in West Bengal where a FIFA
assistant referee Samar Pal is battling a dire financial crisis as he has been out of work for a year now since COVID broke out in the country. The situation has turned so grim that he now has to start selling vegetables to meet his financial requirements.
In an exclusive interview with The Bridge
, the 39-year-old Pal said, "We can't do anything. Referees don't have any monthly income to sustain themselves. If no matches are happening, we won't earn any money. Many referees like me have been sitting at home since last year and have exhausted all our savings."
With no other options in hand, Pal had to resort to selling vegetables from his own house in the Mugkalyan, a suburb in the Howrah district in Bengal. He started doing it a couple of days before the partial lockdown was announced in West Bengal in mid-May. The situation is so grim that Pal cannot arrange two-time meals for his family, comprising his old mother, wife and four-year-old son, without earning money from selling those vegetables.
"Last year, we barely earned anything because sports had halted. The Indian Super League was also conducted in a bio-bubble with fewer referees. This year, I got a chance to officiate matches in the I-League that happened in Kolkata. However, all my earnings depleted in paying off the debts I was burdened with last year," says Pal.
Samar Pal (extreme right) has officiated in 26 international matches.
Despite getting a FIFA badge, Pal couldn't land a job that could have secured a stable flow of income. "I have approached to many asking me to find a job, however, every time I have been turned down. Now if you see my condition, I understand the coronavirus is looming, but how will we be able to survive through the lack of income. I do not have any other options," says Pal in a somber note.
Pal received his FIFA badge in 2014. In the last seven years, Pal has played the role of Assistant Referee in 26 international matches. He has officiated in AFC Cup, AFC Champions League, Nationals, Under-16, Under-19, Under-23 among other tournaments. He was supposed to undertake the match proceedings in Hong Kong and Jordan but both the matches were cancelled because of the pandemic.
I started as a referee in 2003. Later, when I got the FIFA badge, I thought I could reach places. But then I didn't think I would have to sell vegetables one day. Now I wonder why I came to be a referee?" reflects Pal over the telephonic conversation with
. The Bridge
In the meanwhile, over 10 million Indians have lost their jobs because of the second wave of Covid-19, and around 97 per cent of households' incomes have declined since the beginning of the pandemic last year, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) chief executive Mahesh Vyas said on Monday. Not only Pal, in the last year many reports have surfaced of players or sports staff who had to resort to doing menial jobs to earn their living in the pandemic.
Samar, who is a B.Com graduate seeks a job to make his ends meet and urges help from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.