With nearly a century of international matches under his belt, Raghuprasad RV has reason to smile.
Raghuprasad R V, better known as Raghu, is a well-known face on the international hockey umpiring circuit. He is respected as an umpire who is firm, consistent but always willing to see the lighter side of things. In Antwerp, barring injury, he is likely to receive his golden whistle, awarded to an official who has umpired 100 senior international matches.
We caught up with Raghu as he prepared to leave for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp.
Qu: How long have you been umpiring at international level
RV: I have been umpiring from a very young age. My first match on the international circuit was in 2003, a match between Australia and Pakistan, played in Perth. When I started I didn’t even think about reaching this level.
Qu: What has changed in the 12 years since your debut?
RV: Over the years I have been exposed to all the top rung international hockey events and with that experience comes greater confidence. I have also developed an in-depth knowledge of rules and their interpretations, as an umpire you never stop developing and learning. Being an active umpire, I have been able to adapt to the frequent changes in rules. These rule changes have made the game very exciting.
The teams expect consistency and top level interpretation during matches. As an umpiring team we need to prepare well, particularly when there are new interpretations. We have umpire managers who guide and share their knowledge with us so we can take a very professional approach. We also need to be physically fit, since the pace of the games has drastically accelerated.
Qu: Has anything surprised you about umpiring over the past few years.
RV: One point that surprises me is how many good umpires have emerged from nations that are not major hockey playing countries.
Qu: What are the things that you enjoy about umpiring?
RV: For me the psychology is fascinating, understanding how people are thinking; witnessing the varied emotions of the players, spectators and our umpiring team; coping with those emotions. These are all challenges for the umpire.
Qu: What has been your best experience during your umpiring career?
RV: Each player has ambition to be an Olympian and it is the same for an official too. I was very happy when I was on the panel for the London Olympics. I also umpired the final of the 2009 Junior World Cup in Malaysia. Officiating in the 2014 World Cup at The Hague was also a truly gratifying experiences.
Qu: And what has been the worst?
RV: I must honestly confess that not getting a chance to officiate a single match in the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi because I was taken ill was really disappointing. It was made worse because it was in my home country.
Qu: Any words of advice for up and coming umpires?
RV: To be a good umpire you need good values. Umpiring is not a job for everyone. You have to be mentally strong, you have to empathise with others and also recognise and respect different cultures or backgrounds. And as one of my senior colleague said ‘It is okay to sometimes make mistakes, it is how we learn.’ Be focused; be fit; try to be the best in interpretation of rules; show positive energy and body language; be a good colleague. And remember, a smile is a curve which makes everything straight.