Kolkata: From a fish seller in Serampore to FIFA-certified assistant referee, life has come a full circle for 38-year-old Biplab Poddar, who has been inducted into the list of match officials for the high-profile international friendly between Argentina and Venezuela on September 2.

The local referee will be one of the three match officials named for the South American derby at Yuba Bharati Krirangan. Poddar's name became an automatic choice after Services' referee A Arjunan pulled out because of an injury.

Having acquired the FIFA license in January this year, this will be Poddar's first international assignment and he has already become the cynosure of all eyes in Hooghly district of Bengal.

From fish-sellers of Court Bazar, where he has a small stall, to his neighbours and people in Serampore, 'Poddar is their Messi.'

"Everybody here is very excited and coming to meet me. They are coming with requests like autographs, photographs of Messi. They all want to touch my hands once I finish officiating the match. They say it will be like shaking hands with Messi," Poddar said.

"My phone is ringing since the announcement came (about two days back). I had come back this morning after officiating in a Assam district-level league match. The reporting time is tomorrow," he said.

But Poddar does not want to get swayed by emotions. "I am a professional referee, like they are all professional players. I don't know if I would get a chance to be the linesman. But I want to keep the emotions in check and do a good and neat job on the field."

Terming this a golden opportunity, Poddar said: "No doubt he is a great player and Argentina are one of the best in the world. So, it's going to be a lifetime experience, a dream come true for me. I want to utilise this opportunity and it will put me on the world stage."

Poddar did not answer whether he liked Messi and other Argentines but confessed that he was a big fan of 'Indian Maradona' the late Krishanu Dey.

"I am a professional so I can't comment on the present players but I was a big admirer of Krishanu Dey during my young days," Poddar, who began refereeing in 1998, said.

Poddar, who acquired class I national referee certificate in 2003, said he is really missing his father who died about 10 years back.

"I wish he was here to see me officiating in the match. He has been my inspiration," Poddar said, also thanking Calcutta Referee Association's Udayan Halder.

When not doing any matches, Poddar is back at Court Bazar to run his fish shop that is being run by his elder brother in his absence.

"This is our main business. Everybody knows that we don't get much money, and are not secured financially. So we have to bank on our age-old fish business that was run by my father earlier.

"For financial security, I've requested the sports minister to get us (the referees) some jobs. Without a job, we have to always come back to the fish market to make our ends meet," he said.

Col Goutam Kar will be the match commissioner, while A Rowan of the Services will supervise the Messi and Co on the field as referee.

Poddar is among two others - Dinesh Nair (Gujarat) and Franky Fernandes (Goa) - who have been named assistant referees.

The final line-up of the two assistant referees and the stand-bye will be announced with the team list ahead of the match at 7pm on September 2.

Uttarakhand's Pratap Singh will be the fourth official.

(Agencies)