Referees struggling to keep themselves fit amid lockdown - Rowan Arumugam

“Once the season starts, we have to be at the top of our game to perform on the field,” says the FIFA-panel referee.

Rowan Arumugam (right) officiating in an I-League contest between Chennai City FC and East Bengal. - AIFF MEDIA

Referees have been finding it tough to keep themselves fit amidst the nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rowan Arumugam, a FIFA-panel referee, elaborated on the challenges for the referees during this time, in an interaction with www.the-aiff.com.

“It has really been challenging for us to keep ourselves fit during this lockdown. The [Asian Football Confederation] instructors, and the AIFF referee’s department have shared the curriculum comprising of strength training, core exercises and energy gaining. Besides the players, the referees also need to maintain their fitness level to run the show smoothly once we come back to normalcy,” Arumugam said.

“It’s a two-sessions-in-a-day curriculum and approximately, we are sweating out 2-2:30 hours every day. As we are not allowed to go for a run, we are focussing on breaking extra sweat indoor. Once the season starts, we have to be at the top of our game to perform on the field,” he said.

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Rowan is the sole Indian in the AFC Elite referee panel for AFC Champions League – along with Hettikamkanamge Dilan Perera and Gamini Robesh, two eminent referees from Sri Lanka. Besides them, Rowan is the sole referee from the SAFF region to be enlisted in the panel for AFC Champions League. He is also the senior-most referee from the country having got enlisted in the current FIFA panel in 2009.

Hard work

Referees needed to work harder than others to keep up with the pace of the game, observed Rowan. “The pace of the game has increased significantly in the last decade. A normal human being generally becomes slower with age. But we need to maintain the pace. We need to become faster despite growing older. We need to toil harder than others,” he said.

Venkatesh, AIFF referee of the year, 2018-19, outlined the task. “The fitness tests have become tougher nowadays. It’s of paramount importance as we need to match the pace of the game,” he said.

Off-season workout

Referees would increase their workout during the off-season, pointed out Venkatesh. “We increase our workout during the off-season because we don’t get sufficient time during the season. Travelling during the season is hectic. Hence, we need to maintain the match fitness and that’s where we need to focus. But, the off-season is crucial for recovery from fatigue, injuries as well as conditioning for the next week,” he said.

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