FRIDAY'S I-LEAGUE MATCH between Aizawl FC and league leaders Chennai City FC was marred by a controversy where the referees were once again at the thick of it.
The match was won by Chennai City FC by 1-2, which extended their handsome lead at the top of the league table. But some incidents that took place during the game, culminating in the CCFC head coach Akbar Nawas's removal from the bench, the occasion was soured.
It all seemed to begin with a handball by Aizawl FC player Hmingthanmawia, who blatantly used his hand to keep the ball in play, inside the penalty box. It was grounds for an immediate penalty and a red card. But the referee Tanmoy Dhar seemed to have missed it even though he was quite close to the action.
Chennai City's Ajithkumar Kamaraj, frustrated at the decision, chased the referee constantly appealing for the handball. In response, the referee booked him. This sowed the seeds for further conflicts, which led to a confrontation between the Chennai City coaching staff and the match officials at half-time.
A source close to Chennai City said to TFG,
"At half-time, our head coach asked the referee, what's this standard of refereeing! All of a sudden the linesman started arguing with our coach. I'm hearing that linesman went to hit our coach! At second half, we were told that there's no card for the referee but he has to sit in the stands. After the game he's been told he will face more consequences... the coach feels it's racist on him since he's Muslim and comes from Singapore."
This explosive allegation of referees threatening the coach with violence has been repeated in an official letter of complaint written to the match commissioner by the CCFC team manager Ingulab Raghunathan, which has been accessed by TFG.
The letter says,
"There was a lot of dangerous tackles, even two footed tackles that the referee didn't take the opponent to task (sic). These tackles could have been injurious to the players. On another note we would also like to raise the issue of the assistant referee challenging the Head Coach to a fight at half-time. The fourth official also challenged our goalkeeper coach. I myself have questioned the fourth official about why my head coach can't be on the bench in the second half and no reason was given. Referees are supposed to uphold the law of the game and not behave in ths manner..."
While multiple head coaches have recently been critical of the refereeing standards in Indian football in both I-League and ISL, such a confrontation followed by allegations of violence is new, and can turn into a major controversy involving the All India Football Federation's disciplinary committee.
Interestingly, the club source also alleges that the feedback form, which is supposed to be given to every I-League and ISL team so they can register any complaints they might have regarding the match including about the refereeing, was not given to them for this match.