Mumbai, 20 November 2020: A major facet of any sport that is rarely touched upon is the match officials, who, just like the athletes, spend years of hard-work, resilience, training, and consistent performances to get to the highest level. With Hockey India's unwavering focus over the past decade on developing a proper structure for the officials, many people from across the country have had the chance to officiate in some of the biggest hockey matches in the world. One such individual is Mumbai's Javed Nuruddin Shaikh.

Shaikh, who was recently awarded the Hockey India Best Umpire Manager / Umpire 2019-2020 award at the 10th Hockey India Congress, for his outstanding efforts in officiating, has been in hockey officiating for the past two decades. He began his career as an umpire in 2000 at a local tournament in Mumbai, and in 2002, he was called-up as a National Umpire, which was followed by an opportunity at the 2003 Under-21 Invitational Cup in Poland where he served as an International Umpire for the first time.

Commenting on his new accolade, Shaikh said, "I am elated to have been awarded for my work in the country and in world hockey. I would like to thank Hockey India for their continued support and for recognising my work on the field of play."

During the course of his career, Shaikh has umpired at major events such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games as well as the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands and at the 2018 Odisha Men's World Cup in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, and was also called up as an Umpire during the 2016 Rio Olympics. His commitment to umpiring and the desire to keep improving has meant he now serves as an International/FIH - Olympics Games Panel Umpire.

Leveraging this occasion to highlight his own and his colleagues' hardwork and determination, Shaikh said, "Officiating and Umpiring are one of the hardest roles you can play in sport. You are always surrounded by individuals on the pitch who want to do their best for their respective teams, but what people often don't recognise is the fact that we also want to do our best, and always aim for flawless and error-less decision-making under severe pressure."

However, happy with the progress that he's seen in the level of officiating and the support that the federation has provided to officials like him, Shaikh added, "I think Hockey India has done an exemplary job when it comes to providing people like me the platform to deliver. They have been encouraging individuals across the country to come forward and participate in umpiring."

"Back when I started umpiring, there would only be a couple of Indian Umpires at International tournaments, but now due to a proper structure that is in place, there are more than 15 people from India in the International panel, which includes Technical Officials, Umpires and Umpire Managers. In India, we have been able to create more competition, and with people getting more chances to officiate in international tournaments, there has been immense exposure for all of us," he added.

Commenting on what has changed, Shaikh said that the use of technology and social media apps like WhatsApp has paved way for smoother coordination and communication. "Our use of WhatsApp during tournaments started 5-6 years ago, when we first created a group before the first-ever Hockey 5s National Championship. What we were able to do there was, get our officials to watch, read and engage in rules related to this new format. We put videos, text and information related to officiating and umpiring, along with the challenges and scenarios we might face during competition. This really helped in us to become better prepared for the tournament, and when certain situations did arise, we were already clear as to what decision we had to make," expressed Shaikh.

"Since then, we've followed the same for all our domestic, as well as international assignments. We've also managed to make use of this lockdown period to good effect, and have been able to sharpen our knowledge, skills and decision-making process through online sessions organised by Hockey India, in order to be better prepared for future events," added the experienced Umpire.

Commenting on another important aspect that is not highlighted much across the sport, Shaikh said his comrades have to have a special focus on their fitness levels as well. "With hockey being such a fast paced sport, we as officials, also cover a lot of ground, and to do that, we have to be at our best fitness-wise. Again, credit to Hockey India, we have various training programmes to stay sharp, and to maintain our fitness levels. Not many people are aware, but we also have our target Yo Yo scores, which prove to be a good test to monitor our fitness," he signed off.

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