A Journey to Success

The girl is practicing with the boys wearing half pants showing her long legs. It’s such a shame in the eyes of her neighbors and the society where she lives! People are always pinching and telling all sorts of shameful weird things to her parents. One by one the story of this girl spreads across the border, far and wide. And that’s how the referees -Jaya Chakma and Salma Islam Mani, who have received FIFA certification, have struggled and fought with the society and came forward with all these obstacles in life.

They overcame the criticisms of the people of their neighborhood, the bitter words of the relatives and many other adversaries who went on the path to success. Those who once used to raise their eyebrows and question her moralities are now praising Jaya-Salma.

Jaya and Salma passed the FIFA exam a while back. From now on, they have no other obstacle in conducting international matches. FIFA will be listed next January 2020. They will also be able to manage and conduct FIFA matches abroad from 2020. But at this stage, they still have a long way to go. Repeatedly they had to struggle and go through a lot of ups and downs trying to face the reality of the society.

Ibrahim Nesar, deputy chairman of referees committee of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF), informed that both Joya and Salma’s results of the test will be sent to FIFA on September 27.“Joya and Salma have given the test today [yesterday]. The results will be sent to FIFA by September 27 and hopefully we will get their answer by 30 November. If they are selected, then they will be registered referee of FIFA and will be officiating international matches for one year starting from January 1, 2020.” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim also informed that both Joya and Salma have been officiating in different tournaments for the past 10 years.“At least a 10-year experience as a referee is needed to appear in this test. There have been a number of women referees from Bangladesh but none were able to continue it for this long. But both Joya and Salma have been officiating in matches for the past 10 years and that’s why they could achieve this.” concluded Ibrahim.

Jaya is from Rangamati. She studied at Jahangir Nagar University. Currently she is coaching the BKSP women’s soccer team. She played in the national team for a long time and used to study all the rules and regulations of football. She then became the first female international match referee from Bangladesh to conduct different matches. She completed’ Class Three in 2010 and later Class Two Course in 2013’ of FIFA referee. She became the national referee of Bangladesh in 2016. After that she tried to become a FIFA referee twice in a row but failed to pass the referee’s test. On the other hand Salma become a national referee at the same time with Joya. Salma however also failed to pass the FIFA exam last year.

Salma is from Netrokona. She used to practice at the district stadium. But before that, Salma had a tough time too. She started to be an athlete from the sixth grade. She used to play Kabaddi and handball that time. But football always attracted her. The girls in her district did not have much opportunity to play football. But she was adamant to play football. Before getting permission to practice at the district stadium, Salma with her elder brother, Shafiqul Islam used to practice at 3 every morning.

Salma says, my brother’s contribution is unmeasurable.’ Not only had her elder brother, Salma said her entire family has always encouraged her. Salma said in an emotional voice, ‘I remember buying my sports shoes. My father didn’t have enough money to provide things to all his children but my brothers and sisters used to say, ‘We don’t need anything, buy her shoes.’ After these entire struggle, Netrokona district football coach Sajalpermitted her to practice at the district stadium along with all the boys. Then gradually the passion for football continued to grow. Salma narrates the story behind her passion. ‘At the end of 2013 I went to referring to a match at Kamalakanda in Netrokona.

Thousands of people came to watch that match. That day I realized how much people love football. Since then the dream of becoming a referee has grown even more. ”As a player, Salma could not go too far till inter-district football. Of course she couldn’t stay away from football. She practiced at Bangabandhu stadium after coming to Dhaka. At that time, many people came to know her. Yet the struggles seemed to never end. Salma said in a frustrated voice, “One time I was thinking ofquitting referring. I didn’t even make the referring in 2017 and 2018. However, I went to Bhutan for referring at the end of 2018. Ever since then I have been dreaming again. At that time, Mahmud Jamal FarooqiNahid supported me mentally.”Why did Salma leave the referee? ‘I was really upset. Different words of different people hurt me.’

During that difficult time, many gave Mental Support to Salma. ‘Ibrahim sir, Mukul sir, Limon vai (brother) and some others in the field were very supportive of me,’ she said. Now she dreamt of something bigger. The first goal is to enroll in the FIFA Elite Panel of referee. But Salma dreams of something bigger and better. In a gruff voice, she said, “One day I dream of refereeing at the World Cup.”

Jaya Chakma also achieved the FIFA referee’s certificate through hard work. She said, “With the physical war, an emotional battle has finally ended. Now I have learned to fight with myself.’ Jaya Chakmastarted making regular referring through the Bangamata Football Tournament in 2012. Then she conducted AFC U-14 Championship game in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tajikistan. Almost everywhere Salma and Joya worked together though Salma could not go to Tajikistan. Jaya, however, has gone to several other places. She referred ten matches at the International Football Festival in Berlin on 27 May.

Apart from this, Jaya has conducted girls’ U-15 tournament matches in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. In all, she had played thirty-five international matches so far. She says, ‘My first goal will be to get into the FIFA Elite Panel. Beyond that, I want to work with girls’ football development.’ She also wants to see herself as an icon in women’s soccer field, “I want to change the culture of sports in Bangladesh. Girls can now take refereeing as a profession after playing football.’ Before girls did not play football, now they play. There was no female referee or coach before, but now there is. That means girls are now confident that the end of playing is not the end of career. Another career is waiting in front of them.

  • By: Rasadur Rahman
  • Staff Reporter, The daily Bangladesh Protidin



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