Transforming Kabaddi from Madurai | Referee Amsu Muniyandi
At Kabaddi Adda we spoke to referee Amsu Muniyandi, who shared one of Kabaddi’s most transformational stories with us. Amsu is a 38 year old referee. She has crossed all social barriers thrown at her to be known as a genuine referee with high integrity. It is her love for the sport that kept her in Kabaddi for the last 30 years and many more to come. She spoke to us from the temple town of Samayanallur, Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
Tell us more about your Kabaddi journey
As a child, I grew up in Madurai and was mostly interested in sports. I moved to a high school after 8th where my Physical Training teacher Veerambal encouraged me to take up sports seriously. I was physically gifted with good height at 167cm and she felt Kabaddi will be a sport where I can create impact.
I started playing professional Kabaddi in 2000 under the tutelage of coach Shivanandam who himself was a brilliant Kabaddi player and coach. My weight was often over 65kgs, the cutoff for school tournaments, so I mostly participated in open tournaments. I have played Senior Nationals Women’s team for 2 years (2001–2002) representing Tamil Nadu. After 2002, I continued playing for a Kabaddi club in Bangalore. I played as a right raider and right corner those days.
You are a great inspiration for many in the Kabaddi community. How did you overcome social barriers?
Things were tough for me in the playing circuit, but with the help of a few supporters I stayed with the sport. Jamuna Venkatesh, who was a player then and a referee today, helped me shift to her club (Shri Mata Kabaddi Sports Club in Yeshwantpur) under the able guidance of Coach Manjunath sir, an Ekalavya Awardee. They gave me 100% support and ensured my career extended till 2016 — that is almost another 15 years. In 2016, there was a rule introduced that a player cannot participate in tournaments as a referee. Since then I became a full-time referee.
Tell us about your life as a referee
My coach Shiva forced me to write the referee examination in 2010. It was around the time I was having thoughts on — what next after my Kabaddi career? Shiva sir guided me then saying to have a lifelong career in Kabaddi, it is best to become a referee. I have refereed together with Shiva sir also several times. Without question, Shiva sir is my friend, philosopher, and guide.
I took part in the 2016 South Asian Games in Guhawati as a referee. Since then I have been a full-time referee. 8–10 countries were participating in the Kabaddi event, it was a novel and exciting experience for me. I got an opportunity to be line umpire, scorer, timing umpire, and main umpire, in rotation, during the tournament.
I have refereed in Junior and Senior National tournaments, it is largely a similar experience. However, in Seniors, you need to be at your toes as a referee. The players are at their strategic best with their movement being tough to predict, as a referee we need to watch the lines like hawks. I have learned the art of refereeing from Jamuna Venkatesh and Shiva sir; also I’m lucky to have the support of TN State Secretary Safi sir.
Senior Nationals 2020 in Jaipur was the last major tournament I refereed in. Then in January 2021, I refereed in a State Women’s open tournament.
How would you tolerate a screaming inconsiderate fan?
In Madurai in a local tournament, I faced a tricky situation. A men’s match was taking place and I was refereeing with Kumaresh (referee), there was a bit of confusion on whether the raider had crossed the line after a struggle. One person from the audience came next to me and screaming “Raider Out!”. That guy had me rattled, however, I gave the decision in favor of the raider as he is allowed the time to struggle as per Kabaddi rules. The person from the audience began bickering with me, somehow I managed to give the right decision. As a referee, we need to be focussed on the game at all times.
Your dream to fulfill for the next 5 years
My dream is to help kids from my village have a strong Kabaddi career. I am teaching kids to take up Kabaddi here and try to do as much for my community as I can.
I try and support many players who are at the fag end of their careers to take up refereeing. I have helped a couple of my seniors and 4 of my juniors from TN state to become referees. In my district, I have helped over 10 players become referees. It helps them build confidence and stay connected to the sport.