India's stick magicians might have missed the bus to Beijing, but there is one person who will keep the Indian flag fluttering at the Games, albeit in a different role. Satinder Sharma, India's 40-something Grade One umpire has been invited to officiate hockey matches for the second time at the Olympics and he is confident that he will do the country proud with his acumen and decision-making on the astro-turf.
“This is my second successive Olympics…I had officiated in five matches during the 2004 Athens Games. I am happy that I am one of the chosen few from around the world who would be officiating at the quadrennial event.
“I am one among the three Asians to have got the honour, with the other two being from South Korea and Malaysia,” says the bearded umpire who has also represented Chandigarh at the national championships.
“In 1998, I chose to become an umpire and four years later I had turned international. After watching the likes of Satinder Walia, A. S. Bawa and Kuku Walia, I decided to take the plunge into umpiring,” says Sharma who has till date also officiated in two World Cups and five Champions Trophy tournaments, with his crowning glory coming when he officiated in the CT final at Teressa (Spain).
A former left-back, who started playing as early as 13, he represented Chandigarh 11 times at the nationals and was captain of the team that came third at the 1995 National Games.
The State Bank of India assistant manager is, however, distressed that the Indian team will not be around in Beijing. “It feels bad.
“We should learn a lesson from the debacle and try coming back strongly,” says Sharma, who rates Indo-Pak rivalry a different ballgame. “The type of pressure is different…unmatched,” he says.
The umpire feels that at the domestic level players put undue pressure on umpires, which affects their morale. “This is the reason why quite a few decisions that are overlooked here, go against the Indians in international competitions.”
On what has been the most cherished moment in his life, Sharma says, “Blowing the whistle for the first time at the Athens Olympics. It was a different feeling, a dream come true.