While the Indian Men and Women’s Hockey Teams are in their final stages of preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Umpires Javed Shaikh and Raghuprasad RV too are gearing up for the prestigious games as the only umpires chosen from Indian by the FIH to officiate at the Tokyo Olympic Games which begin from 24 July.
Speaking with Hockey Te Charcha, a special podcast series initiated by Hockey India, both Javed Shaikh and Raghuprasad RV emphasized on the challenges they had to deal with in their preparations for the Games amidst the pandemic. “We have both officiated at the Olympic Games in the past. I was there at Rio (in 2016) and everything was very smooth but this time it has obviously been very different due to the pandemic, and we have had to change our plans due to a series of lockdowns in our respective cities. In a normal scenario, we would have been on the hockey field going through our drills and fitness routine ahead of a big tournament, the pandemic has caused a few setbacks for us, but we had to find ways to deal with it and be prepared for the task,” stated Umpire Javed Shaikh based out of Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Raghuprasad RV, put things into perspective, as he explained, “The last time I officiated in an international match was more than a year ago. Due to the pandemic, there were no tournaments, and we were unable to travel for any outside assignments either in the last couple of months.”
“But this can’t be the reason for me to not officiate to my potential in Tokyo. We have to be on top of the job and deliver the right umpiring decisions. What helped during this time was Hockey India’s efforts to hold regular online sessions for hockey officials where we would discuss match scenarios and watched videos from different tournaments. We also watched the recent European Championships and analyzed how the teams’ structure has changed and new tactics they are using,” he explained.
The duo also highlighted the importance of fitness with the game getting faster with the regulation time being reduced to four quarters of 15 minutes each. “Hockey is really fast now. Unlike previously, we have to be in front of the ball and players today are extremely quick which is why the FIH and Hockey India have their guidelines and set benchmarks in fitness. Umpires undergo frequent fitness tests, at least 4 times in a year. Like players we too have Yo-Yo and Dal Monte Sprint Test. We need to complete 2200 mts in the Yo-Yo beep test and sprint 40 mts in under six seconds. So, in that sense fitness is paramount for us umpires too,” stated Raghuprasad RV who has officiated in over 150 international matches.
Javed Shaikh and Raghuprasad RV also lauded Hockey India’s endeavour to develop young umpires and bring them up to speed with the international standards. Javed Shaikh said, “Thanks to regular courses and frequent engagement with officials has led to many youngsters taking up officiating in these past years. The recent Hockey India Nationals had officials as young as 19-20 years old and they are very good at the job.”
“It has taken Javed and myself more than 10-15 years to reach this level and get an opportunity to officiate at the Olympic Games, but we are sure with the support system the umpires have now, youngsters can grow in officiating at a much faster pace. In last one year alone, we have seen more than 120 people enrol for Hockey India online courses and lot of women too are taking up umpiring,” stated Raghuprasad RV.