Bal Bahadur Tamang, 21, is from Dagana. In the cold winter evenings, he is mostly seen refereeing at the football matches in Changlingmithang stadium in Thimphu.
Bal Bahadur is not a professional referee. He is the in-charge and caretaker of the artificial turf in Changlingmithang stadium. He lives in a small hut in Changjiji, provided free by Bhutan Football Federation (BFF).
As the caretaker of the turf, he gets a salary of Nu 4,000. After all the cuts, the pay comes to Nu 3,400. And living on that much in a place like Thimphu is difficult, he says.
Bal Bahadur gets lucky when teams show up without a referee. They ask him to do the honour for a small fee which he gladly accepts. But refereeing is not a pretty job, he says. Players blame him for petty reasons. But he has learnt to play around them.
He makes anywhere between Nu 200 and Nu 300 refereeing for a game. On a good day, he makes more than Nu 1,500 a day.
Bal Bahadur doesn’t mind low pay from BFF because his is not a 9 to 5 job. He doesn’t get a day off. In fact, he makes more money during holidays because more people come to play. Weekends are the busiest days when he has to work for a minimum of 16 hours a day.
“Refereeing is the thing that keeps me alive although that’s not my real job. In fact, I make more money from refereeing than from my regular job,” he says. “Otherwise, it is really difficult to survive.”
Sometimes, on a busy day, Bal Bahadur has to go on refereeing without lunch. On the busiest days, his lunch is usually at around 4 pm.
Because of his busy schedule he has a crazy routine. His dinner is at 1 am and breakfast anywhere between 4 am and 5 am. By 6 am he starts from home to prepare the ground for the first game at 7 am.
Travel eats a huge chunk of his savings, though, because he has to run at odd times.
“I am tight moneywise but I must travel in taxis. There is no other way,” he says.