Next stop on his way to the top: Harish Karki’s arrival in Nepal’s first division

Last summer, I interviewed a referee colleague from Nepal: Harish Karki. We talked about football in Nepal, about participating in FIFA courses with top referees from Asia, and about his personal goals. A while ago one of those goals became reality: Harish got his first appointment as an assistant referee in the A division league, the highest level in Nepal. He was along the sideline during Brigade Boys Club against Tribhuwan Army Club, so I couldn’t wait to hear him out about this game and the last couple of months!

YungRef: First of all: congrats with this achievement, Harish! What was the game like?

Harish: Thanks, mate! Well: when I got appointed, I was really proud and excited – to finally achieve this dream! Couldn’t wait, too.

The game itself was quite good, actually: both teams were playing at a high intensity, so we had to be focused from the very first second. It took me a while to grow into this level of playing, but the whole thing was a great experience. Afterwards, the four of us were very happy with our performance. So I think I can say it was a successful debut.

YungRef: What about your stress level before the game? Did you have it under control?

Harish: First of all, I noticed it took more mental and physical preparation than normally. The entire organization of a first league game is so different from youth games. Besides, the game was played in Nepal’s only national stadium, which meant I had to prepare to face quite a crowd: I think there were about four thousand fans that day. And I brought along my own share of fans: about fifty or sixty friends from my referee association had bought tickets to come and see me. They even chanted my name, so I discovered on social media later – such a big honor!

The game itself I prepared like I would any other youth game. But of course there was a lot more pressure: the game was broadcast on national TV, for example.

YungRef: What was your first impression of the level of football, the stadium, the organization behind the game?

Harish: I couldn’t believe the size of the stadium when I first walked onto the pitch – so big! It holds a crowd of 15000, which was a lot more than I was used to.

There was a warm welcome by the home team’s delegate. Our dressing room was also bigger: it had a mini-bar, lockers, a main area and so on. And I had never refereed a game with stewards in the stands, keeping an eye on the fans. You could tell it was a high profile game, for both teams: the winner would go up in the ranking.

Full focus before the game

YungRef: Besides assistant referee you are also a national futsal referee. On your Instagram account, I saw some pictures of you during the National Futsal League in Pokhara. It seemed like lots of fun.

Harish: And it was! Pokhara is one of the most beautiful cities in Central-Nepal. I did some great matches over there, and quite a few tough derbies – they were all pushing the limits, so I had to hand out a lot of cards. I also took some time to discover the town with a younger colleague. Which was actually quite funny: many people recognized me, so I had to stop a few times to take pictures with the local people and even with some players of the teams. It was a big honor for me, because mostly it’s all about the players. But now they were all asking me for a picture or an autograph – crazy.

YungRef: Will you be able to keep combining the role of assistant referee with that of futsal referee? Or will you have to choose in the near future?

Harish: Our new Referee Development Officer has made it very clear that we’ll have to choose – we can’t do both. But we are not pushed in any direction, it’s totally up to us. So I have chosen to proceed as an assistant referee, because I always dreamt of officiating in big stadiums with lots of fans. I hope to get my FIFA badge in two years, and then we will see what’s next. But for now, it’s just important to keep working, stay focused and be prepared for the next appointments.

After the interview, Harish let me say hello to the referee colleagues of his association, who were sitting in the next room – nice! Many thanks to Harish for another nice conversation, a real pleasure once again. By the way: don’t forget to check Harish’ official Facebook page. For my blog followers: thanks for reading!

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