Rupa Devi, a 26-year-old woman from Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, has been selected by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to officiate international matches.
According to reports, she is the first woman referee from Tamil Nadu to be selected by FIFA.
Rupa started playing football when she was a student of Class 6 at St. Joseph’s Girl’s School in Dindigul. Her love for the game continued to grow and she started playing at the sub-junior level in her school very soon. She also started participating in district level football tournaments and became a part of the Dindigul Football Federation in 2006. The federation helped her participate in many national matches and also sponsored her education. She continued to play when she went to GTN college in Dindigul for her BSc degree, and then to Annamalai University in Chidambaram for a BEd in Physical Education. She currently works as a physical training school teacher in Dindigul.
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“As a child, I used to stand on the sides of the ground where the game was played and kick the ball, whenever it came to me,” she told The Times of India.
According to a report in The News Minute, Rupa lost her parents in 2010 and 2011. She supported herself through the matches she went to play. But during the same period, there were no matches for women at the national level for two years. This was when senior referees advised that she should become a referee. She joined the referee development school in 2012.
She has been a referee for many matches since then. She was chosen as a referee for Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2013, for the under-14 football festival held in Doha. She was the only Indian selected as part of the Asian body’s ‘Future referees’ project at that time.
Three years after beginning to officiate matches and giving the FIFA examination, she qualified as an international referee.