Women referees would undergo fitness tests meant for male referees and may even go on to officiate men's Hero I-League matches soon, Ravishankar J., Director (Referees), All India Football Federation (AIFF), has said.
"Our target for the women referees is to make them capable to undergo the men's fitness tests and to be able to officiate Hero I-League matches. They will also have to take the challenge head-on because it'll be more challenging physically as well as psychologically. I am confident that they have the quality to match our expectations," Ravishankar said.
Currently, a total of eight referees and 10 assistant referees are in the elite FIFA panel from India. Among them, Ranjita Devi Tekcham and Kanika Barman are enlisted amongst the referees whereas Riiohlang Dhar and Uvena Fernandes are in the category of assistant referees.
While Uvena is on the list since 2014, Riiohlang Dhar and Ranjita Devi were first enlisted in 2018. Kanika Barman, having been added to the elite list in 2020, is the latest entrant.
Ravishankar, a former FIFA referee, feels Indian women referees have improved significantly lately, and made a special mention of the Hero Indian Women's League (IWL).
"Our women referees have done exceptionally well. Ranjita is rated as one of the top women match officials in Asia. With the Hero IWL coming in, they are getting more chances. About Kanika, I am sure she would be able to do a better job and comparatively, she would come out faster," he told AIFF TV.
While Uvena Fernandes has already experienced officiating in the FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup, Ravishankar is hopeful that the remaining three would also get a taste of the same experience at the forthcoming FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup that will be hosted in India.
"We are hopeful the trio will also get an opportunity to prove their worth in the Under-17 Women's World Cup in India next year. It is our aspiration and it will be a really proud moment for us. We can proudly say Indian Football has come forward together along with #ShePower," he said.