A veteran football referee, an authority on the laws of the game and one who served the FIFA panel for over a decade in the 1950s, L.R. Natarajan passed away here on Thursday. He was 93 and leaves behind his wife, a son and a daughter and their families. The funeral is to take place on Friday.
‘LRN’, as he was popularly known in football circles, had a varied career that was rich in experience. He was a player initially, a goalkeeper for the first division team Madras Recreation Club before he chose to become a referee.
Moving over to Mumbai (Bombay then), in the 1940s, Natarajan’s seriousness in refereeing saw him rise to a national grade official in 1954. Two years later, he was nominated into the FIFA panel where he served for 12 years. He has officiated in virtually every tournament in the country in the period 1946-68 apart from the national championships. Officiating in the Teheran Asia Cup in 1966 and earlier in the Asian Youth Cup in Malaysia was an added embellishment to his career.
In 1978 he retired from refereeing and became AIFF instructor and examiner. Later he served on the AIFF referees board. Age did not dim his enthusiasm and in the 1990s he took up the task of translating FIFA’s laws of the game and bringing out a universal guide for referees in Tamil.
The Tamil Nadu Football Association published it as part of its diamond jubilee celebrations. Much earlier to that, he had run a series on the football laws in Sportstar. He had also edited ‘Soccer Referee’ magazine while in Mumbai. As ex-FIFA referee S. Suresh put it, “I have always found talking to him not just inspiring but an education. He was a great friend, guide and mentor.”
Hailing from Lalgudi, Natarajan had served in the Navy and retired as Assistant Personnel Manager.