Basketball can be pursued as a passion in other ways besides playing. Here’s a look at one of the FIBA certified officials from India, Manoj Kotian:
Q) How did you get into basketball and officiating?
Manoj: I used to play a lot of football and kabaddi. It wasn’t until later when I suffered a knee injury that I began to play basketball. My family steered me away from football and kabaddi as those sports are more physical and I could have aggravated my knee again.
Playing basketball led to officiating the games. I started with officiating local games such as school and college ones. One incident that stands out is when I was berated by a senior official who felt that I had made a mistake while officiating. He laid it on me, saying I wouldn’t amount to much of an official. That filled me with indignation. Who is he to say that I won’t be this or do that? I was determined to prove him wrong. That fueled me to be the best referee I could be. Today many years have passed and I can look back and say that I did what I set out to do.
Q) Talk about officiating international matches and what FIBA license brings.
The first international match that I officiated was when a women’s team from Malaysia came to India to participate in the 2nd Savio Cup, in 2005-06. The first time I went overseas for officiating was in Vietnam.
In basketball, there are three officials on court. A referee and two umpires. We work in the position assigned to us by FIBA.
With great power, comes great responsibility. With FIBA license, comes more assignments. One would think that being among the top level referees means having to pick and choose.
Q) There’ve been instances of Indians being discriminated against in some foreign countries in certain professions. Have you had any such experience in officiating?
Manoj: No, no. Referees from India aren’t discriminated against. Our work is appreciated and we enjoy an equal standing with officials from other countries.
We can’t officiate India’s matches since the Indian team is in the second pool, we get to officiate matches from the first pool, i.e matches between higher ranked countries.
Referees from countries where English isn’t one of the main languages, such as Japan and China, can be more difficult in adjusting to the environment.
“They call me a ‘serial referee’, because I’ve appeared in serials such as Dil Mil Gaya on Sahara One, and D3 as a referee. There were a couple of offers to appear in movies as well, but that would require me to commit 20-25 days to it. And that would interfere with my work.