If you ever happen to talk football with one of India’s most prolific referees and India’s first-ever in the FIFA elite panel, you are very much likely to mistake him for the guy next door. Years after blowing his final whistle as a FIFA referee and later as a national referee, Rizwan-ul Haq still lives and breathes the game that has given him everything but he never wore an aura around him, neither when he was officiating nor when he is associated with the game in an administrative role in the Delhi football circuit.
Rizwan began as a footballer wanting to enter the national team and was even part of the National Under-15 side. He was even named in the senior team probables but when he couldn’t make it to the team, he tried his luck in officiating, much like his father FIFA referee (late) Ikram-Ul Haq and began as a Class III referee in 1988.
In an exclusive chat with The Statesman, Rizwan talked at length about football, his experiences as a referee, and what India needs to do to emerge as the next sporting powerhouse.