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Indian Basketball: Interview with FIBA Commissioner Danapal Veerasamy Ponniah

A national referee in India since 1986 and an influential force in Tamil Nadu basketball, Danapal Veerasamy Ponniah successfully qualified as an International Commissioner for FIBA on May 10th, 2011 after a FIBA-Asia Clinic for Commissioners Candidates in Erbil (Iraq) from May 3-5. He is only the third International FIBA Commissioner from India. Here are some excerpts from an interview I had with him.

Mr. Danapal with Mr.Kotlaba, Instructor at FIBA Commissioners exam at Erbil, Iraq

Mr. Danapal with Mr.Kotlaba, Instructor at FIBA Commissioners exam at Erbil, Iraq

Q. How did it feel to be one of the three FIBA commissioners in India?

Ponniah I felt really happy.  It was a proud moment.

Q. How does the selection procedure for a commissioner differ from that of a referee?

Ponniah The selection procedures are almost the same, except for the fitness test, which we don’t have to undergo in the FIBA commissioners’ test.

Q. Can you brief the role of a FIBA commissioner?

Ponniah Many people are not aware of the the very fact that a position like FIBA commissioner exists. The FIBA Commissioner is responsible for managing the referees in the FIBA matches. He is responsible for any decision making when a problem arises in the matches.

Q. How challenging will be playing the role of a FIBA commissioner?

Ponniah Performing the work as a FIBA commissioner will be very demanding and challenging. This is because we are required to be at all the matches and expected to deal with the conflicts arising in the matches. We are also to solve any issues that the referees cannot solve themselves.

Q. What are the international matches you have officiated?

Ponniah My first exposure to an International match as an official was at SAF games which were held in Tamil Nadu in 1993. The second event was the Under-16 Asian Basketball championships held at Bangalore in 2007. My third officiating experience was at the Asian basketball Championship for women at Chennai in 2009.

Q. Have you had any regrets of not being a FIBA referee?

Ponniah I appeared for the FIBA referee in 2000, but I was not selected that year. I did not have any regrets, but was confident that will achieve something greater than that. Moreover the age limit did not allow me to try out the FIBA referee try outs again in the future. As I said I had no regrets in the past and also now, as I will be managing the referees in the FIBA matches, which wouldn’t have been possible if I had been a referee.

Q. What is your advice for aspiring FIBA commissioners from India?

Ponniah They have to be thorough with the rules of basketball. And one has to understand the format of Basketball administration. Being a player or a referee will be an added advantage, though it’s not mandatory.

Q. How will you compare the standards of Indian officials to the officials from other countries?

Ponniah I personally feel that I can do better when compared with the foreign officials. Coupled with playing, coaching and refereeing experience, I think I do play the role of a FIBA commissioner better than any official.

Q. What is your opinion about basketball officiating as a career?

Ponniah Officiating in Basketball is not like the other sports. Even the officials in foreign countries make it as their part-time profession, as it doesn’t pay for their living. It has to undergo changes throughout the global system. Moreover the features of being an official is not very attractive expect for some people who are satisfied to stay in touch with the game they love.

Q. What will be your ideas for officiating to get professionalised?

Ponniah The system has to change. Here in India we get Rs.100 on an average for officiating a domestic match. Whereas in countries like Ireland, an official gets paid around a 100 US dollars per match. Official have to be remunerated, if they have to choose it as a profession.

Q. India has got many FIBA referees, but only 3 FIBA commissioners. What’s your view on that?

Ponniah The lack of awareness is the main factor. People don’t know that there is such position like FIBA commissioner. I feel that many people will start trying for the FIBA commissioner’s exams after seeing me. It’s all about the awareness among the people.

Q. What are your future plans?

Ponniah I have reached a level which I was dreaming about. I can go further, to the level of a National Instructor for Referees, but this is  not the apt age.

Q. You have played the roles of a player, a coach referee and now you become a FIBA referee. Which among these roles, you like the most?

Ponniah I really am happy about the current position of being a FIBA commissioner. I love staying with the game, whatever the role it may be. But if you want to know specifically, I would say that I always love to be a player. Nothing makes you happy like playing the game.

Thanks Mr. Danapal for your time, and congratulations for becoming the Third FIBA commissioner from India.

You can also check this article at the BFI website @ http://indiabasketball.org/newsdetails.php?id=481

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