Refereeing for passion



Papaiah’s love for the sport remains undiminished

Those were the days when a diminutive gentleman used to cycle his way from Hakimpet to the other extreme of the city - Goshamahal Grounds - with a passion which cannot be imagined now - to officiate in the Rahim League football championship matches.

At 83, Penishetty Rajanna Papaiah with his amazing fitness can easily make some of the young footballers in the Cantonment and Trimulgherry Village Grounds bow their heads in all humility.

For the old-timers who were regulars at the once-famous Rahim League championship in the twin cities, Papaiah was the most familiar face for the simple reason that he officiated without a break for 46 years from 1952 till 1998.

A passionate football lover since his school days in the Mahabubia High School, Papaiah took to refereeing once he joined Military Engineering Service in 1952.

“I can tell you that the crowds there in those days for the Rahim League were bigger than you see now for most of the National Football League matches,” he says . “There were days when gate money was charged at Gymkhana Grounds for the Rahim league matches. Such was the crowd attendance,” he added.

It is not just officiating the matches even under the most trying circumstances that made Papaiah stand apart from the rest of the crowd but his immense knowledge about the game also came in handy even for some of the all-time greats of Indian football like Peter Thangaraj, Balaraman, Kannan and Noor Mohammad. “Especially, the first three grew in stature on the soccer field under my guidance,” says the proud gentleman.

Quite interestingly, he was never given a chance to officiate in the Senior Nationals but was there in the line-up for the Nizam Gold Cups. Why? “Despite being qualified, there was always a lobby which was against many of us (from the Cantonment area) getting any big assignments,” counters Papaiah. And the match he remembers the most was when the Air Force goalkeeper fell down and failed to stop cleanly a stinging right footer from Asian Games star Bir Bahadur. In the process, a defender picked up the ball in his enthusiasm to find out what went wrong with the goalie, forgetting that the ball was in play. “I promptly declared a penalty which was vociferously objected to by the Air force which lost by that solitary goal to Southern Command in the final of the Services championship at AOC Centre in 70s,” he says. No wonder, football in the twin cities badly needs people like Papaiah!

Recommended for you