She breached a male bastion as a teen.
At 23, Monika Jana is now fine-tuning her skills at Jamshedpur’s JRD Tata Sports Complex and raring to move up the ladder to be part of an elite club — Fifa referees.
The girl from Bagnan in Bengal’s Howrah district will fly to Malaysia to chase her dreams. The lone Indian woman to take part in the Future Asia Referee Project in Sri Lanka in March, Monika has a lot to look forward to.
The unassuming achiever is training under city-based former Fifa referee Binod Kumar Singh.
“I am undergoing physical training here at JRD Tata Sports Complex. I have to keep myself in fine fettle before I fly to Malaysia on October 31,” Monica told The Telegraph.
The Category 3 referee will appear in written, viva as well as practical tests in Malaysia, which will be part of an exposure tour of Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
“I am very excited about going to Malaysia. After all, I’m pursuing my dream, which is difficult but not impossible. I am confident about faring well in the tests,” she said.
Monika also earned praise from her mentor in the steel city. “She is young but mature and has the potential to reach the top echelons of refereeing. She possesses a sound knowledge of refereeing and is a hard worker,” said Singh, also a referee instructor of the All India Football Federation.
The eldest among three sisters, Monika hails from a modest background. Her family cannot even afford to have electricity connection at home.
Her father does petty jobs in fits and starts ever since the factory he was working at closed down a few years ago.
Yet, by the time she turned 19, Monika was a registered football referee in Bengal. She was selected to supervise the AFC Under-13 girls’ festival in Colombo in March.
Monica has been refereeing in the third and fifth division IFA football leagues (for men) in Calcutta for five years.
“I have also officiated in a number of women’s matches as well as inter-school and college games. I am thankful to Calcutta Referees’ Association for its support,” she added.