November 30, 2010
After officiating the Asian Games final, referee Ramesh Durairaju sets his sights on the Olympics
Tamil Nadu based referee Ramesh Kr. Durairaju vividly recalls a moment last week which he vows he will remember forever.
It was at the Guangzhou (China) Asian Games, where Durairaju was part of a small contingent of Indian referees officiating the basketball tournament. On the night of November 24th, Durairaju had been picked to officiate a Men’s Quarter-Final game between Iran and Jordan. He remembers returning to his hotel room late, around 1:20 in the morning, only to find two of his Indian colleagues – including his referring mentor Mr. Naresh Aneja – waiting for him.
They had a little bit of news to discuss with him: the 34-year-old Durairaju was to discover through his friends that he had been picked to be one of the three officials to referee the Final of the Women’s tournament the following day.
“I could hardly believe this news!” he exclaims, “We stayed up till 3 in the morning, as my friends congratulated me and Mr. Aneja discussed the game. It was a night I will truly never forget!”
Durairaju, a native of Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) became only the second Indian since his fellow statesmen SK Subramanyam to officiate a final of an Asian Games basketball event. Subramanyam did it 28 years ago during the Delhi games in 1982. For Durairaju, it was a dream come true, but he insisted that he isn’t done dreaming yet.
Durairaju started officiating in 2002, and cleared the examination to become a FIBA referee in 2006. His first international didn't come till 2008, when he officiated at the Malaysia International Basketball Championship. Durairaju admits that he had a late start as a official, but he put in many hours of hard work to improve himself and get to the level he is at today. Through the course of his, he feels indebted to the advice and support of Aneja, a man Durairaju has described as his teacher.
The final match, a close fought affair between hosts China and South Korea, turned out to be a lively experience for the young referee. “Just stepping out on court was really nice – I hadn’t ever expected anything like this,” said Durairaju, “The infrastructure and the facilities were amazing, and the final was being watched by so many people in the arena and so many more around the world!”
He continues: “I had to be completely mentally prepared for this game on matchday. It was a great and easy game to officiate, as both teams were focusing on just playing the game of basketball and not committing too many fouls.” The game came down to the wire, before China pulled off a 70-64 victory in the end.
Naresh Aneja served as the Commissioner of the Gold Medal game, and Durairaju was accompanied by referees Elena Chernova (Russia) and Teerapong Yodsint (Thailand) on the floor.
Durairaju’s accomplishment has been another feather in the cap for Indian referees in 2010. In July this year, West Bengal’s Atanu Banerjee became the first Indian referee to officiate the final of a World Championship, as he was one of the referees at the final game of the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in France.
Durairaju, too, has hopes to keep improving and keep rising. The Asian Games final was a great feat, but there will be no full stop to his story here. “I am back to work now, trying to improve myself and become a better referee every day,” he says, “My sights are set on the World Championships and the Olympics. The honour at the Asian Games has encouraged me to work harder to try and make it to that level.”
With ambition like that, there will be few doubting that Durairaju can one day stand amongst the world’s very best.